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How to Manage Noise Bottlenecks (163/365)

Reflecting on this Sahil Bloom thread about the power of lifelong learning has helped me hone my writing of late, seeing writing as “learning out loud”.

And then, along came this idea, based on the article, “The Noise Bottleneck: When More Information is Harmful”:

“The noise bottleneck is really a paradox. We think the more information we consume the more signal we’ll consume. Only the mind doesn’t work like that. When the volume of information increases, our ability to comprehend the relevant from the irrelevant becomes compromised. We place too much emphasis on irrelevant data and lose sight of what’s really important.”

This idea, all at once, perplexed and haunted me. It brought me back to being a young student, who had difficulty prioritizing. While these surfaced throughout elementary school through early college, I still struggle as an adult sometimes, losing sight of my priorities.

Fortunately, I’ve developed mechanisms to manage these aspects of my life. In fact, self-management has been key to my overall success, which has included finding joy in the small things in life.

I’ve also learned, through experience, how important it is, when things start getting complicated, to keep things simple.

As I develop good habits (in this case, writing), I’m realizing the “noise bottleneck” that exists, surfacing at the most inconvenient of times.

What can we do when this happens?

How can we head these bottlenecks off at the pass?

In the podcast, “How I Became a Food Critic and Why You Should Care” (One Percent Better Podcast, Episode 189) host, Joe Ferraro raises two questions, I’ll be thinking about:

  • What do I want?

  • What’s the very best way I can get it?

Asking these questions of myself will result in “more signal and less noise”. But how can I build on this momentum?

  1. Write small. Limiting my words has created discipline of thought. Writing in a small but specific series of “buckets” helps compartmentalize my thinking.

  2. Remember to breathe. James Clear writes about 3–1–5 breathing. (Three seconds in, one second hold, five seconds out.) Doing this several times each day is a simple way to slow down, often when it’s needed most.

  3. Seek out and celebrate moments of joy. Small interactions can often lead to what Joe Ferraro calls, “Damn Good Conversations”. Seeing the good is important, and easy, once you build the habit.

Focusing on what I want and how I’m going to get it, in combination with focusing on the smallness of everyday events, this is how I am prioritizing signals over noise, and keeping the focus on daily progress on the journey of lifelong learning.

Click here to visit the Learning Leadership 365 site, where you may read all posts I've written.


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