Cutting Through the Clutter
I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the “noise” in my life lately. I’m signed up for a gazillion blogs/e-newsletters, I get the snail mail New York Times, Fast Company, Outside, and Real Simple, I have four email accounts, paper lists, electronic lists, and lists swimming around in my head. I’m not sure what percentage of this is “media porn” versus substantive information, but I’m guessing the balance could be a whole lot better than it is. This topic of noise/bombardedness seems to be in the media a lot these days as people are increasingly talking about things like intention and purpose and signal…and how we isolate those things in our information-filled lives. For example, an author named Douglas Rushkoff recently published a book called Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, which talks about our social adaptation to a present-focused narrative, which can either be energizing or disorienting, depending on how we handle it.
This idea of noise — and how to sift through it — is most interesting to me as it relates to our health. This was actually the foundation of wellfesto — a belief that if we all could get clearer about what matters to us, based on our individual stage in life and priorities and interests and passions — we’d be able to better focus the information and inspiration we process in order to take care of ourselves. I love the idea of being clear about what matters to us, and then designing information flow based on that. Technology writer Doc Searls was quoted talking about this exact thing in yesterday’s New York Times business section: “right now, fitness enthusiasts who use blood pressure monitors, calorie calculators, and movement sensors typically can’t collate the data for a unified view of their wellness…if people could easily integrate their data, they might be able to correlate weight loss to a particular workout routine or diet.”
I’m sure people are frantically scrambling to build a platform that makes sense of not just our physical health, but our overall well-being. And overall, I think this is a good thing. Probably a great thing…maybe even a world-changing thing. But the value of all of this information hinges on what we actually do with it. What signal are we looking for, why, and what decisions/behavioral changes do we make based on what we learn? What unique blend of data matters to US? I have a super rudimentary way of thinking about this, which is a pie graph of what I’m focusing on at any given time. Here’s the graph I made this morning:
It shows where I’m focusing my effort right now…not necessarily my time (I probably spend more time making and eating food and using my brain than this graph shows)…but my energy. Once I sketch out how I’m focusing my effort, I think about what I’m looking for in each category. This usually includes one/some of the following: motivation, information, support, time, focus, inspiration, commitment. Once I know what I’m working on and what will help propel it forward, I can make clearer use of my time and find signal in noise. It’s imperfect, but its a good check now and again to try to focus on the things that matter most.
What tools do you use to keep track of your health? Do they add value or noise? Do the signals you’re looking for change over time? If you could design one tool to keep track of your overall well-being, how would it work?
Oh, Brynn, I love your posts because they always put into words things I’m thinking about but don’t always have time to sort through (because of the NOISE!) My life feels so filled with noise lately that I often have to step back and remind myself not to spend mental energy on certain things (because I find that a lot of my brain space gets taken up with things that aren’t actually meaningful or helpful to me). That’s my main goal right now — to make sure that I am spending my time, energy, and brain space on the big things, the things that matter, and try to let go of the rest.