Raise Your Low Information-Action Ratio

In Success

My sibling was significantly more addicted to TV than I was. He may deny it, but I stand by this statement and I’m pretty sure my parents will verify its validity. He’s now in his thirties, but even in the recent past my parents would comment on how late he went to bed when he’d visit them in our childhood home in Virginia.

“I woke up at 2 am and heard the sound of the TV coming from his room,” our mother would mention to me the next day. As for me, I wouldn’t be addicted to television in general as much as keeping up with certain shows.

Today, as a twenty-four year old, I still make sure to put a cap on how much TV and screen-based entertainment I take in.

The Pew Internet Project, a division of the Pew Research Center, and Common Sense Media, a San Francisco non-profit that informs parents in their media choices, both conducted surveys back in 2010. These surveys examined teachers’ perceptions of the effects of unrestrained television use on students. A high percentage of the teachers surveyed noted what they perceived to be a correlation between increased television usage and an inhibited ability to concentrate.

These aren’t formally conducted studies, therefore the findings shouldn’t be handled as such. However, these surveys are still valuable because they contain insight from individuals exposed to and observing children 40+ hours each week.

What teachers are observing seems to be connected to Information Overload.

Daniel Levitin, author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload and professor of psychology at McGill University, says that by one calculation, we as a human race have produced more information in just the last decade than in all of human history preceding.

We as a people have more options than ever before as well. There are millions of books to read and movies to watch, more TV episodes on Netflix than you’ll be able to consume in your entire life, and more items in the grocery store than you’ll ever be able to eat. This is similar to Information Overload, and is aptly titled, “Decision Fatigue.”

Here’s the problem. Marva J. Dawn, in her book entitled Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture, writes that, “television has habituated its watchers to a low information-action ratio, that people are accustomed to ‘learning’ good ideas (even from sermons) and then doing nothing about them.” Guilty as charged.

In this day of Information Overload and Decision Fatigue, many of us are like the Ancient Greeks — we love new ideas, new knowledge, new information. “Information Hounds,” I guess you could call us. This in itself is not a bad thing. I love new knowledge and information. One of life’s greatest pleasures for me is being exposed to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and using them to hold my own up against the Light.

The problem comes when we constantly take in new ideas and never apply them. Never put them into motion to see about improving our lives.

Knowledge is great. But wisdom starts to come into play when that knowledge is applied to your life so that you can start to reap its harvest.

Your low information-action ratio is banishing you to a life in which you are a know-it-all who is doing no better than the person who is content to know zilch. At the end, you with your beloved books and podcasts and love for pretentious Netflix documentaries will have a life that looks no different.

I’ve just given you a good handful of information. The question now is, “So what do we do with this information? Where do we go from here?”

The way I process and handle information is shifting into Active Gear.

When I’m trying to become knowledgeable about something in a short amount of time, I like to play audio books about the topic at a high speed; this practice allows me to take in a variety of content quickly, and it feels effective. However, the knowledge I’m acquiring isn’t the deep, applicable kind of knowledge that would serve me well in dynamic thinking.

It’s trivia knowledge. It’s knowing a lot of random facts about a certain subject. It’s being aware of it.

This is a great undertaking for certain topics and goals, but when it comes to content that’s supposed to teach me new habits or change my overall behavior in some way, I now try to slow it down. No longer am I trying to consume a lot of information on fast-forward.

I’m taking notes and highlighting and repeating things over and over like affirmations. I’m writing journal responses. I’m jotting down lists of takeaways and reviewing them daily to try to put them into practice.

If I can learn something — some sort of concept, some sort of skill, some sort of idea — by DOING it, that’s the way I’m going to try to absorb the information.

I’m taking chunks and I’m splitting them up into bite-sized goals. At the end of each day, I sit down and check in with myself, reflecting honestly about how I did, what went well, and how I can do better.

How about you? What are your goals? What new habits or mindsets do you want to cement? Let me know what they are in the comments below and share with the Internet how you’re chasing after them intentionally.

Nina Singhapakdi

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