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Filtering the Noise

blog Apr 27, 2016

You have to learn how to filter your world to stop the interrupts and in today’s business world that means everything from your phone, the people around you when you’re in an office, to the content that's stuffed into your face as you do your job. And now in the 21st century, it’s not just somebody that can walk up to your desk; you know, time robbers, the time bandits. It’s every app and program on your computer and in your hand. The email program that has notification pop-ups, Skype or Hangouts left open so people can see that you’re online. Instant message programs open like Facebook and so on.

It's ironic but I have noticed that most people’s filters are broken. Their method of filter is scrolling through content (believing their method is logical or even chronological) looking for which ones they’re attracted to. And if someone wrote a good title for a tweet or something that intrigues them, they’re just going to get suckered in. They’re just going to go open it and follow the link, and 4-1/2 minutes later you realize that had nothing to do with anything that they either care about, should be working on, or should be investing time in.

You must have a process for filtering Email, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, everything because it is important to your time consumption. You can’t get away from it. And your process must be effective, efficient, repeatable, and reproducible as with any other process. You need to find the minimal snippet size of useful data in the actual email, tweet, blog, or message that tells you it is of use. So when somebody posts “This is neat,” and they have a link, don’t even bite on it.

It’s literally like eating popcorn in the blind. If you reach in the bucket, and you grab what feels like an un-popped kernel, don’t put it in your mouth. Stop! Throw it away, get rid of it, and just reach in again. But when what you’ve grabbed from the bucket is nice and fluffy, and there’s something tangible there, when there’s substance, then you pop it in your mouth. And if it turns out that piece is dubious, didn’t get any salt, doesn’t have enough butter, too much butter, too much salt, or whatever, you’ve got to be willing to spit it out. You absolutely have to.

When you open up a blog or a tweet or some other content and as you start to read it you find yourself saying “This is nonsense”, do not give in to this feeling that somehow you must finish what you started. The feeling that you have to see this to the end, you have to read all nine pages of this blog from someone who; first off, doesn’t have any useful information. Secondly, on the face of what you read they do not know what they’re talking about. And third, is not an authority on anything that you can discern.

For the most part it is true as they say in advertising; if you want to get somebody’s attention you must have this really tasty bite to get their attention and then you can draw them in to the real content you want them to see and consume. You'll find that almost anybody will stand around for five minutes to read an article that’s just not worth crap because they did in fact get hooked good to start with. Once you get them, you’ve got them. Well I'm telling you, don’t be that guy, don’t be that girl, and don’t be that person. You have to be able to say, “This is useless” and put it down or walk away.

But most people just don’t do it because they've not trained their internal spam filter. Remember whey back when spam filters you had to be trained? We'd mark stuff as spam and they would start to learn on their own. They would recognize what’s junk and what’s not, and yea, sometimes they'd miss something. In today’s world, they’re pretty accurate but they have been fed a lot of information over the years. I don’t usually go find important messages from people in the junk folder. And when I say important, I don’t mean that “they” think it’s important, but that “I” think it’s important. This is the same way you have to build your internal filter for content. You have to train your brain and say, “Every time I click on a link from that guy, it’s useless.” Well, do yourself a favor and stop clicking on links from that guy. That’s it!

Now, if somebody who’s a trusted authority of yours forwarded you that link, they in a sense pre-filtered it for you, give it a try. But, if it fails, you train yourself to say, “Now Joe is no longer a trusted authority. He sends me links from that other idiot who just has junk.” You have to build these processes inside your mind for the sake of your mind. You could actually write it out, document it and share it with your entire company. You literally could have a best practice for filtering content.

My message is simply this: Find out how to filter the millions of bits of content you have coming at you every day and realize that for every second you give each of these, there is another second of your life you will never get back. Not just for the sake of your productivity but for the sake of life itself. Now add all those second up and go sit on the beach and sip some wine with someone who matters. :)

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