What does the Weather Channel, Donald Trump, Skip Bayless, & news stations all have in common? Aside from the fact that I’ve let all of them distract me over the past 24 hours, they’re all noise. They’re all acts in life’s circus.
Trust me, I get it. There is something mesmerizing about Donald Trump and Skip Bayless opening their mouths. I want to turn it off, but I just can’t. stop. watching.
Our brains receive 11 millions bits of information per second. PER SECOND! However, it can only consciously process about 40 bits of that info. The bottom line: we cannot be spending those valuable 40 bits with Donald or Skip. We have to use those 40 wisely. We need to focus on the Critical Info.
Critical Info is the important shit. It’s the information we need to make us more effective human beings. It’s true and reliable We need information that will help us make better decisions, improve our health, improve our willpower, and relationships. Unfortunately, our minds are programed to be more attached to Fox News & MSNBC than Economics For Dummies, although the latter would add much more value to our lives.
Positive Psychologist, Shawn Achor, describes noise perfectly. He says, “Noise is information that is negative, false, or unnecessary. It’s anything that prevents you from seeing a world in which success is possible. It’s anything that distorts your reality.”
Okay, so how can we distinguish what is noise and what isn’t? Achor provides a nice little filter system to determine whether or not we should be spending our precious mental resources on something. Ask yourself these 4 questions:
1) Is It Unusable?
Will your behavior change due to this information? If not, it’s noise. Sure, there is something fascinating about that Malaysian Airline plane going M.I.A. in the Indian Ocean. But unless you’re leading the search party, then fuck it. Let it go.
News is the number one source of unusable noise. We watch it, it distorts our view of reality, we don’t act, we get scared, we eat cheesecake to comfort us.
2) Is It Untimely?
Recently, I went up into the Utah mountains for Oktoberfest with Kels and two other friends. That morning the sky was full of dark clouds, but I assured everybody that I checked the weather earlier in the week, and I knew it will be a beautiful day. It’ll be 65 and Sunny; I’m sure of it.
As we make our way up the mountain the clouds get darker and thicker. I reassure everybody once we get there that the sun will be shining through.
We get to Oktoberfest, make our way through the parking lot, and the moment we walk under the “Welcome To Oktoberfest” sign, not only does it start pouring rain, but it’s escorted by marble-sized hail.
We sat under a tiny tent with the rest of the Oktoberfest participants who obviously used the same weather app, and I indefinitely lost my privileges to be the group weatherman.
This is a perfect example of untimely noise. Checking the weather days before the day added no value. Even had I been right, my friends still wouldn’t have thought I was that cool. It was a lose-lose situation.
If you’re not going to use the information immediately, and by the time you do, it could change, then it’s untimely noise. The weekend forecast and the stock market are both great examples. Unless you’re in the finance industry, following the market is a surefire way to stress you out and have you succumb to what most individual investors do: buy high, sell low. Please don’t do that.
3) Is It Hypothetical?
Every year, in late February, I spend hours and hours of my day watching college basketball analysis. I love it. It’s my favorite time of year. I watch all the experts make their picks, and I fill out my NCAA Tourney bracket.
And every year I lose my money. I never win those things.
This is a great example of hypothetical noise. It’s based on what someone believes what could be.
I love sports, but watching hours and hours of SportsCenter is noise. It’s hypothetical guesses by guys who don’t have any more chance of getting a game right than you or I. The Patriots are crashing and burning this week, next week it’s “they look like they’re Super Bowl ready. It’s fickle. It adds no value. It’s noise.
4) Is It Distracting?
Does the information distract you from your goals
Unless you’re a journalist, CNN won’t help. Unless you’re interning at ESPN, watching for hours doesn’t add much value. Unless you’re in finance, watching the market will stress you the hell out.
Be somebody who consistently asks themselves “Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time an resources right now?” If nothing else, according to Achor, by consciously decreasing the flood of information your brain receives by just 5% can substantially improve your chances of finding that positive signal (i.e. Critical Info), which leads to better decisions, more innovative solutions, more robust sales, improved health, & greater achievement.
Two of My Favorite Tools For Eliminating Noise
1) Meditation: Use to eliminate the noise inside your head
Meditation is a great way to eliminate the internal noise. The doubt, the fear, and the uncertainty. Meditation is show to quiet the mind. It’s shown to improve focus, self-awareness, willpower, better immune function, emotional stability, and lowers your need for external validation.
Learn how here:
2) Awareness: Use to eliminate outside noise
This is the ability to filter through those four questions above. It’s consistently asking yourself, “Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time an resources right now?”
After awhile of doing this you’ll begin to understand where all your time and energy goes, and once you’re aware, then you can make moves and take control of your life.
Let’s make it a goal to be less noisy and more efficient in our lives and the best way to do this is less Trump, less Bayless, and less eating cheesecake to comfort yourself.