July 2

Avoid information overwhelm

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.’

Sun Tzu

While this quote is the opening to an early chapter in “The Resilience Toolkit”, I’ve recently been struck by its universal application. Swap “enemy” for “unhealthy eating” and “battle” for “temptation”, and it still works. How about “procrastination” for “enemy” and “dull report” for “battle”? Or even “distractions” and “goal”?

But this isn’t really about enemies or battles but Balance.

Cognitive Overwhelm

And balance is what we are lacking today. Many of us are overwhelmed cognitively, by the vast amount of information we consume. 

Talking to a friend recently about his favourite podcasts, he struggled to name just one that I should try; he had 4 pages of them in his subscription list. I don’t ‘do’ podcasts, but I’m an avid subscriber to email newsletters, and I’ve been known to have 5 or more books on the go at once – both ‘real’ and ‘kindle’ versions, as well as a couple on Audible.

Add to that following 2000+ people like you on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The sheer volume of content is terrifying – and never mind if it’s any good. “I have all these podcasts I listen to because I might just pick up a useful nugget along the way” added my friend. 

Time for action

Recognising a feeling of overwhelm, I’ve decided to take action by subtracting. The email newsletters get automatically filed, I’ve gone cold turkey on FB, and I’m massively restricting my twitter time. A new rule of one book at a time, and no new books until all unread ones are finished. I’ve even suspended my Audible subscription for 3 months. And sorry – but I’m not starting any podcasts! 

This is all part of my aim to become more of an Essentialist in 2021 and beyond (if you are nodding along with me so far, you need this excellent book by Greg McKeown – I have both physical and audio versions!). I’m adopting the One Thing’s focus question and cutting back on the deluge of stuff I’m driving into my brain every day. I still have access, but it’s no longer in my face. 

I’ve got headspace now.

I feel a lot more balanced even though it’s only been a week so far! It is easier to concentrate on a film and to read a book with a lot more focus. I’ve noticed that I’ve stopped “multi-consuming” – like eating lunch without Jeremy Vine wittering away in the background. Chop wood, carry water.

I’ve got headspace. Not the app – space in my head. Space to BE. 

When you think about any living thing, plant or animal, it’s clear that it is constantly working to be in balance. In humans it’s called homeostasis. Rather than being about avoiding change, its about adapting to the changes that are always occurring, so that we survive and thrive.

Advances in communications technology have only been working in opposition to this, and are upsetting the balance. It’s time to make a change.

We could sum up Sun Tzu’s quote as: If there’s balance between your self-awareness and self-defeating behaviours, you need not fear failure. You can press ahead. Knowing you can cope with what comes your way as a result.

So, at the start of another month, how are you going to rebalance your life? Let me know…

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action, adapting, balance, content, resilience, success

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