Reading Less is More: A Better Way to Manage Information

ByAksel Satrom on Mar 03, 2023.

Information can be overwhelming at times. We are all too familiar with that feeling when our eyes glaze over. Whether it’s caused by Youtube video bingeing, staring at school work for too long, or reading books far into the night. We start wasting time when we are supposed to be getting work done, and in our free time the cycle repeats anew. With a little change in perspective we can take responsibility for our time and regain our focus.

Pile of books spread around in shadows.

In Ecclesiastes 12:12 The Preacher says “…of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” This verse rings even louder now that we have the internet. With unfettered access to information it is no wonder we bombard ourselves with data from the news, social media, podcasts, and blogs. Scattered pieces of low-quality information amass and begin to influence us. Someone once called the internet a “river of information”, but with constant inundation and a lack of self control it becomes a whirlpool. We need to recognize the danger of this easy access and take responsibility.

In Nate Anderson’s book, In Emergency Break Glass, he explores how the philosopher Nietzsche can help us manage information and technology. It covers a wide spectrum of Nietzsche’s writings and life, but what I found most useful was a single, simple concept.

The idea he presents is deceptively simple. Take up a few books and devote yourself to studying them solely. Become suspicious of all other sources and abandon your fear of missing out. Imagine you will be stuck on a deserted island for the rest of your life. You can only bring six books with you, which would you choose? Applying this thought experiment in our lives to some extent would help us avoid wasting our mental resources. Why clutter our minds with inferior information when we could select our favorites from humanity’s best works?

This mindset provides an actionable purpose when reading. By asking specific questions about the quality of information we can ensure what we are internalizing is edifying.

These questions force us to pay attention to what we are reading and become selective. They enable you to decide if something is worth your while or if you should ignore it. Be honest with yourself while asking these questions, and you could develop a healthier relationship with technology.

While information can be overwhelming at times, reducing and becoming selective about our info consumption can help us clear our minds and focus on what’s important. Getting rid of the cruft frees up space for us to focus on what’s important and study it deeply. By limiting and being selective in what we read and watch, we can clear away the rubbish shoveled into our brains and regain focus.