My name is Kyle, and I’m an Infoholic

I recently read Tim Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Work Week, colloquially called 4HWW. The book is short, dense with ideas, and easily worth the $12 price. I recommend the book in spite of:

  • Questions about the veracity of Ferriss’s claimed accomplishments
  • Criticisms that some of his techniques are not as broadly applicable as he makes them sound
  • The fact that the author apparently fell for a bogus chain-letter email and reprinted it on page 284. Ooops – how embarrassing!
  • I’d guess he’s spending more like 80 hours per week promoting his book over the last few months, with many media appearances, interviews, etc.

Among his main points (outsource more, delegate more, sell products rather than services, travel, etc.), the key idea that stood out for me is the “low-information diet”: read less, watch less, surf the web less. This is nothing new of course (I even touched on it myself in an earlier post), but Ferriss makes a compelling case.

Unfortunately, upon self-examination the truth hurts:

  • I read too many books, even though I’ve gotten rid of many recently
  • I read too many magazines.
  • I read too many web sites.
  • I subscribe to too many RSS/Atom feeds.
  • I check email too often.

In my defense, I also somehow write a lot of software, solve many customer problems, and much of the information I consume is at least tangentially related to those sources of value. I read quickly, and I don’t watch television, so this excessive consumption is not as time consuming as it could be.

Still, I need something closer to Ferriss’s low-information diet. I don’t have the guts to go cold turkey, and part of the service we offer to our customers is fast response to problems, so I won’t go as far as he suggests. I will spend less time consuming input and more time producing output.

Update in 2009: This remains an ongoing struggle, but I do quite often manage entire days of producing most of the day and consuming only in short breaks.

5 thoughts on “My name is Kyle, and I’m an Infoholic”

  1. I have to admit, I’m an infoholic too. Perhaps we should start an IAA for the people addicted to information. All jocularity aside, I used to sorta have a pride in the amount of information I collected, how many blogs I read, the amount of information that stored. Those are all signs of OCD style problem. Over the weekend, I was home alone, the house was clean, and I had very few projects on my plate that required attention, all of it was really just needing some “thinking” time. I sat down and started reading some articles. The problem being that I use an rss reader (google reader) – and its like I feel compelled to read through it …. all of it And to my astonishment, I think I spent all of saturday reading digg 😀 .

    I looked back at my logs, and over sat. and sun. I’ve read through or briefly skimmed almost 400 articles, yes .. 400 – I thought about compiling a list and figuring out how relevent most of it was. A significant part of it was associated to some problems I was trying to solve in a web project. Quite a lot of it was devoted to AJAX, PHP, CSS, DHML and DOM. So I’m glad that I absorbed information that was or could be relevant, but I realized I’m more addicted to entertainment news that I’d like to admitt. ( I mean seriously, who cares about Lindsey Lohan? ) – some off hand calculations showed that about 40% of it was development related, 20% randon nonsensical information from hollywood, 20% or so associated with technology of sorts, robotics/electronics. the last 20% was devoted to random stuff, funny youtube videos’, some articles on quantum physics. etc.

    I believe this is related to some odd compulsion to keep up – But then I was asked by someone about a bridge collapse. I didn’t even know a bridge had collapsed – let alone a major bridge, that collapse for no apparent reason. So truthfully you can’t keep up with it all, only a minor glipse of what is out there can actually be monitored. I recently started trimming and filtering my rss feeds. That will help during the interim time, but I’m not sure what the next step would be.

  2. The problem with information is that it’s needed to make good decisions, and making good decisions is important for delivering good products instead of useless crap. I think they key is that one must learn to recognize useless information from important information, and consume more of the important type. Arguably dropping the useless information is going to make more time for producing, but unless one has looked at a lot of information, one might not know what information is important. The 80/20 problem.

  3. Hi, my name is Bradley and I’m an infoholic.

    Information that is relevant to one’s vocations and main hobbies is useful in its context, but my identification as an infoholic comes from a compulsion to collect and consume copious amounts of information that is either not directly related to these areas or is a distraction from what I ought to be spending my time on.

    It only takes three people committed to recovery from infoholism to start Information Addicts Anonymous.

    The first AA group started with the two founders, Bill Wilson and Dr Bob, plus the first man they helped to become sober.

    If you identify with any of this and you are serious about exporing recovery from information addiction, please contact me via my contact details on my web site.

    Bradley C Hughes / infoholic

  4. It sounds like Bradley has it pretty bad.

    As for me, I’ve turned down the “info” knob quite a bit, reducing all of the information sources I listed above, while keeping plenty going to support my work. 80/20 is where it at.

  5. Hi Kyle,

    Yes, while I have a pretty severe case of infoholicsim, you may be pleased to know that I am resolved to put my infoholic tendencies to good use. I’ve set up a new Entregreeneur blog system and am starting to define the various categories that I will be posting on my blog. You’re welcome to stop by, make some suggestions about content direction, as I’m having trouble making up my mind what to write about first.



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