What is Your Signal-to-Noise Ratio?
The more access we have to information, the more we are bombarded with noise. It can be overwhelming. But why? How did information platforms like Google, Facebook, email, unlimited texting and even cable news come to decide what we ought to pay attention to? Aren't they supposed to be helpful? Not really. Here's why.
Various strategies have cropped up to assist users in tackling this filtering problem. RSS or news feeds, for example, are supposed to show us updates on the sites we care about most. That technology was important for a short while but faded out as users realized how little they actually kept up with their daily feeds - one more list of information to tackle! Social mechanisms like Digg help people filter items of interest by seeing what others think is popular. Facebook does this for you by seeing what your friends share and what they like. Twitter shows you trending topics.
Unfortunately, few if any of these filtering strategies actually drill down to help individuals discover what's important to them. More often, they feel like just another fire hose of information. One more burden to manage.
The only sure-fire way of greatly reducing the noise in your life is to be the filter yourself. But it's even more than that. You see, it isn't possible to avoid the noise unless you assume the challenge of ignoring it altogether. Rather than being a passive consumer, make the conscious choice to literally turn off and disconnect from the various screens that command your attention.
When you do choose to find out what's out there, in limited and purposeful expeditions online, into your social network, email and TV, your time is better spent, and much more likely to teach you what you want to know, than to provide endless time-wasting opportunities and mindless advertising consumption that the always-on ethic creates.
Some argue that being unplugged for a significant portion of the day is unsettling, inconvenient and impractical. Really? Then why all the studies about how many hours (yes hours) of every workday are spent on completely unproductive tasks, mostly online? Why was it recently shown that multi-taskers (especially people who think they are good at it), tend to be horribly unproductive? Why is it that time studies prove we aren't nearly as busy as we think we are? There is one answer to all of these questions: We don't think of our attention as a valuable commodity. We spend it haphazardly and in so doing, create a feeling of busyness that is very important in a society that judges personal productivity among it's highest virtues (even when actually being productive is often hard to do).
When you spend your day carelessly allowing your attention to grasp onto anything that passes your way, your time is stolen, before you even realize it. You settle for having felt busy, despite being less productive than you could have been. Feeling tired rather than energized. Feeling burdened, rather than in control. There isn't much point to that.
In addition to turning off more often, there's another important technique to limiting the noise factor: going straight to the source to get what you need.
Here at Without the Stress, we like to focus on how best to convey information to our consumers so that they can get the answers that are specific to their circumstances. Rather than endless instructions and long pages packed full of detailed information that force you to learn about all sorts of things you don't need to know, just click on the question you have, ask one yourself, or contact us. Getting a new passport doesn't have to be hard. You don't have to spend hours online trying to figure it out, because we already know the answers.
There are thousands of websites about passports and visas, but you only need one. As they say at Chili's Restaurants:
GET IN. GET OUT. Get on with your life.