How I Overcame Information Overload to Thrive on Less

My Case of Information Diabetes

Up until recently, I stuffed my brain with information like a hung-over heavyweight fills their belly at a Las Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet:

  • Listening to double-speed podcasts while sh*tting and HIIT-ing.
  • Skimming through email newsletters while eating.
  • Reading non-fiction books to bookend my sleeps.

Why not?

Knowledge is power, right?

I figured that one day being so “well-informed” would come in handy. And I thought it made me smarter.

Maybe. But the more acute effect was an overwhelmed brain that had me constantly feeling on edge, jittery, and restless. My right eyelid even started twitching.

It was as if I had developed Type II information diabetes. I was consuming way more information than I needed. My brain’s inability to process it all made me crave more and more. And it was making me unwell.

Forced Withdrawal

Just as my information overload was getting so bad that I started going on Twitter, my wife Kim gave birth to our baby boy.

He stole away all the free time and attention I used to spend consuming information.

At first, I felt hangry for information. I was missing out on so many podcasts, posts, and newsletters. “Info FOMO,” you could call it.

These feelings, I realized, were unhealthy. Time with my newborn son was much more precious than whatever information I was missing out on.

So I decided to try an experiment:

An information fast. 

For over a month, I avoided trying to absorb any information other than how to change diapers.

A Change in Appetite

My information fast worked out wonderfully.

My eye twitch vanished, my cravings subsided, and I found more appreciation for real-life—i.e., the things happening right in front of me.

But as great as info fasting felt, I didn’t want to keep it up forever. Ignorance may be bliss, but the pleasure I get from learning is even better.

So I slowly started reintroducing information into my daily diet…

…And I noticed something had changed inside me:

  • My palate was pickier. Most of what was in my feeds wasn’t appetizing to me anymore.
  • My appetite had shrunk. Whereas I used to always finish what I started, now I often put aside empty-calorie content after only a couple of nibbles.

The biggest reason for these changes?

I had gained an appreciation for the opportunity cost of consuming information.

Taking in trivial trivia prevented me from doing and enjoying cool real things with my life. So I dramatically shifted and slimmed down my information diet toward only consuming what could make a marked difference in my real life.

And I came up with a mantra: 

WWIDDBOTI

It’s pronounced “wide-body” and stands for:

What will I do differently based on this information”?

  • Listen to Tim Ferriss interview another billionaire about his routines and strategies for success. WWIDDBOTI?
  • Read a book like The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. WWIDDBOTI?
  • Watch some Mr. Beast Video because everyone else watched it. WWIDDBOTI?

WWIDDBOTI serves as insulin for my information diabetes. It isolates the useful information within whatever I consume and puts it to good use rather than letting it pass right through me or clog me up.

Also, WWIDDBOTI became my filter. If I consume some information and can’t extract an honest answer to what I’ll do differently because of it, I second-guess going back for seconds.

“You are what you eat,” right?

Or maybe, more precisely, You are whatever you do based on the information you consume.

How to Safely Apply WWIDDBOTI

WWIDDBOTI may seem simple, but:

  1. Simple’s what works best for simple-minded people like me.
  2. You can still easily misunderstand and misapply it if you’re not careful.

On the latter point, three words in particular seem to cause people to misuse WWIDDBOTI and not benefit from it as much as they should:

1. Do, Not Think

Just thinking differently based on the information you absorb is useless. 

I can watch a bunch of baking videos on YouTube and think I know how to make a magnificent croissant but, unless I do it—i.e., try baking them myself—that knowledge is useless. 

The same goes for all forms of information.

Like the news.

The number one defense I hear people use for consuming so much news is they want to be “concerned citizens.”

How altruistic of them!

But have you heard Derek Sivers’ saying, “If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs”?

Well, in a similar vein, let me take a stab at another quote:

“If being concerned citizens did us any good, we’d have nothing to be concerned about.” 

If you mostly agree but feel dirty about altogether quitting the news, at least WWIDDBOTI your New York Times, Economist, or US Weekly diet. And if you can’t extract anything to do differently, admit you’re consuming the news:

  • for entertainment
  • to fit in and/or impress people with your knowledge.

There’s nothing horribly wrong with either. But maybe sometimes you could be doing something more useful.

2. Differently, Not More

I’d argue “differently” is the most important word in WWIDDBOTI.

Because you’re not helping anyone if you only consume information that confirms what you already know so you can keep doing what you’re already doing. On the contrary, you are cementing your status as a hardheaded, self-justifying echo-chamber-dweller.

But can’t a bias toward doing differently also lead you astray?

Absolutely!

For instance, some Goop article may convince me to stop brushing my teeth and start swishing coconut oil in my mouth instead. (“Oil pulling,” it’s called.) And it may not work out as promised. But as long as I continue to do differently based on information that comes in—especially evidence from personal experience and from my dentist—I will eventually find my way onto a better path. 

Maybe, as in my Goop example, you’ll return to the same path as before.

So what?

At least you’ll have collected more evidence in that path’s favor and have learned about which sources of information to trust.

3. Will, Not Should or Might

As Ozan Varol eloquently wrote, it does you no good to should all over yourself.

Using might is weak, too. So gather up the will to do differently based on the information you take in. 

Speaking of which…

What will you do differently based on this information?

Based on the information you just read in this post, what will you do differently? 

WWIDDBOTI?

Want More Inspiration to Do Differently?

The Unconventional Route's mission is to make it conventional to be unconventional.

To remind you to avoid getting stuck in the status quo and make the most of your trip through life, we send a quick dose of ideas called Consider This every 10 days.

It’s free, fun, and unpredictable, just like life should be. Join us.

Once every 10 days. 0 spam. Join 3,000+ of us.

Read This Next:

Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we recommend. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to. Read our affiliate policy.

What do you think? (Leave a Comment.)