It’s both thrilling and distracting – we’re bombarded with information, and can access a rich mix of information instantly – books, articles, newscasts, podcasts, videos, movies, radio channels, streaming music. Any time we’re faced with something hard or that requires sustained concentration we can “jump” to something easier and more appealing in the moment.
A friend observed that we used to build remarkable buildings and works of art and have long attention spans before the advent of television, Facebook, YouTube, and video games.
I advocate leaders “unplug” periodically but the real leadership skill now is being selective. Leaders need to tune into the better signals, and dial down the noise. Leaders must be consciously choosy about information input in order to lead wisely.
Here are seven questions to help you decide what’s worth consuming, and what should be skipped:
- Does this fit my learning plan? Does this information support what I need to stay abreast of in my industry or avocation? Does it help me develop new skills? [Check out this guide to developing and maintaining your learning plan.]
- Is this mind-candy or substantive? Some entertainment is ok but it should still enrich your life. Does it leave me feeling refreshed or as tired as I was before I watched/read it?
- Does this challenge me? Not everything in your information input stream should comfort or coddle you. There’s a good kind of “whack to the head and heart” information you need.
- Am I getting a usefully diverse perspective here? Put yourself in the path of different points of view, especially in areas you are passionate about. If all you consume fuels your “echo chamber” you won’t grow. Greenhouse plants aren’t as resilient as plants exposed to wind and weather.
- Does this promote wise and deep character and thinking, or is it just trendy? You only have so much time and energy to consume information and still be creative and constructive with your output. Select materials which help you become a better person in heart, mind, and soul.
- Would I consume this if everyone was watching me… or no one? Don’t consume information to be “one of the crowd” or just to brag or assuming it won’t influence you.
- Do I need more information on this topic, or do I need to act on what I already know? Leadership maturity is knowing when your real learning comes from doing.
We’re privileged to live in the times we do. Kings of old did not have what you have. Develop discernment in the midst of increasing abundance as a leadership skill. Model it for others. Swim well to your destiny rather than treading water in a noisy sea.