Mon. Jul 4th, 2022

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Did you know that information consumes up to 11 hours per day? Clay A. Johnson, in The Information Diet: A case for conscious consumption, argues that a lot of what we eat – in information terms- is just as bad as junk food.
It’s an interesting idea. The idea is that poor quality food can lead to obesity, while poor quality information can cause cognitive decline.
Johnson writes that “much as poor diet can lead to a variety of diseases, poor information diets can give rise to new forms of ignorance – ignorance which does not come from a lack or overconsumption but from an inability to understand it.”
There are many options for information
The Information Diet discusses how we got to this point in information overconsumption. Johnson talks about churnalism, where journalists repeat the same information in press releases instead of doing independent research. He also discusses content farms and search engine optimization. Johnson says that we cannot stop data overproduction and must learn how to adapt to a world with different rules.
Johnson’s rules for managing data diet are:
Consume mindfully: Know what information you are consuming and how to regulate it.
Consume locally: Get to the point and avoid over-processing.
You can cut out the ads. These are sugary drinks that give you buzz but no nourishment.
You should eat a variety of information from many sources.

Johnson writes that if we listen to only what we want to hear and tell ourselves nothing else, we can get so far from reality we make poor decisions.”
Information overload is not a reason to be ashamed
Information overload is a modern epidemic. Johnson claims that information overload is a misnomer. People don’t overload with information and it is unlikely that our brains are limited in knowledge. He suggests that instead of focusing on efficiency and productivity, we might look at it through the same lens that we use to view all other biologically consumed items: health.
Johnson emphasizes that information is neutral. Johnson points out that information is not a force. It doesn’t force you to consume it, and it can’t rewire the brain without your cooperation. He says there is no information overload. He writes:
“Though we complain about it – all the news, emails, status updates, tweets, and television shows that we feel compelled watch – the truth of the matter is that information does not require you to consume it. There has always been more human experience and knowledge than any human could absorb. It’s not the amount of information that is causing you to go to extremes, but rather your information habits.
The book is a large part about managing your information habits, including his personal experiences with dealing with interruptions from pop-ups and email notifications while working on his computer. He improved his attention span to be able to focus longer on long-term information, such as books, and not on short, bite-sized pieces like this article.
Consume deliberately
This book is heavy on examples from US politics. It’s not easy to see the parallels to project management. There are many parallels, however. Project management is largely knowledge-based.
Information must be gathered from many sources and not just one stakeholder’s or project team member’s perspective. Consuming information should be done consciously. This means understanding the project information and being able process it correctly. We need to get as close as possible to the facts and not rely on third-party information when making decisions.
Johnson’s message for a healthy information diet was this: “Consume intentionally.” Information is more important than you think.

By Adam