Signal-to-noise ratio is defined by Wikipedia as “ratio of a signal power to the noise power corrupting the signal.” This concept comes from electrical engineering but it can be applied to information overload. I don’t know about you, but I constantly struggle with finding a signal hidden in all the background noise. I also worry that I’m creating more noise than signal. Thus, I’m looking for ways to increase the signal-to-noise ratio in the information I consume as well as the information I create.
Why Do We Suffer From Information Overload?
There may be a lot of reasons, but I have come to believe that it is primarily our own fault. It boils down to something rather simple:
We are afraid we will miss important information or opportunities.
Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less says we are unhappy with all the choices we have because we are always wondering if we selected the right one out of the endless alternatives available to us. I think this applies to information as well. There are so many sources of information and so much information available, we worry that we are missing something important.
What You Need to Accept
- Accept that you can’t absorb it all.
- Accept that too much noise will drown out the signal and you’ll wind up with meaningless static.
- Accept that there is a lot of good information out there and you are benefitting from discovering and acting upon a small slice of it.
- Accept that that you will be far better off going deep with some systems rather than spending your life reading about a lot of different systems.
- Accept that others will be a lot more likely to pay attention to you if you create more signal than noise.
Increasing Your Signal-to-Noise Ratio
I readily admit I don’t have the answers and I’m looking for them myself. This is what I came up with.
- Make sure you seek information with a purpose in mind. Seeking with a purpose helps keep you focused.
- Focus on quality not quantity. Act on quality instead of filling up with quantity.
- Find sources you trust, like The Rat Race Trap :-), and cut out the rest.
- Skim your sources for things that look interesting and go deeper.
- Adjust and prioritize your information sources as new sources become available. Every time I find a new source I add it, but then what do I drop? It’s a struggle. I’m trying to focus on an important few. I’m spending too much time looking and not enough time acting.
- Don’t get distracted and go hopping down bunny trails when you are seeking something. You are researching X, you get distracted reading an article that looked promising on your results page, and the next thing you know you are watching some idiot on You Tube.
- Allow yourself some time to go looking for new and interesting information. If you see something that tweaks your interest, look a little deeper but don’t get obsessed.
- If you don’t have something important to say, maybe you should be quiet. Just because you have a blog, doesn’t mean you have to fill it with noisy placeholders. I’m having a hard time with this one 🙂
- When you are creating information, concentrate on a single idea.
- Whether you are consuming or creating, always ask yourself whether you are dealing with a signal or with noise. If it’s noise, drop it.
I fear I’m creating noise so I’m going to stop.
What do you think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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