Information Overload and Re-learning

My name is Gavin Elliott and I have an information problem. At the very least it’s a challenge, a personal challenge which I think many others have.

There is so much information and knowledge being shared that I find it incredibly difficult to keep up. Here’s a breakdown of what excites me;

  • The Web
  • Design
  • Coding
  • Business
  • History
  • Geography
  • News from all countries
  • Technology
  • Movies
  • TV Series (Vikings, Game of Thrones etc etc)
  • Business (General)
  • Finance (General)

As it currently stands there are;

  • 9046 unread items in Reeder
  • 8000+ items in Instapaper
  • 1 Book I’m currently reading yet not finished
  • 20+ Books yet to be read on my bookshelf
  • 37+ notifications on Quora
  • 100+ items on Quora I want to read and keep up with
  • 2 current items on Branch I keep an eye on
  • 200+ Bookmarked links I would like to read
  • 30+ new links per day shared on Twitter which I would like to read

The Information Problem

I love to consume data and knowledge. Most would call it an obsessive compulsive disorder which all control has been lost. I try my hardest until I open up that next article and start to read. My love of knowledge is in fact making things worse, for every item I think I’ve read and consumed I bookmark or add another three at least.

The Honesty

If I’m being absolutely honest with myself there are two underlying things which I need to come to terms with.

  1. I *thought* I needed to know as much about my interests as humanly possible, not just a little bit of them I thought I needed to know everything in its entirety.
  2. I *thought* consuming as much data/knowledge as possible would make me more knowledgeable about those subject matters.

After some time I believe both of them are completely flawed.

Trying to know so much about everything has stopped me from learning about specific areas of the things I really enjoy and can apply directly to my work/life. I seem to have floundered a bit in my practical ability. As an example, I’ve had various roles over the last few years which have restricted me from doing the things I really love. For instance, I used to find doing markup (HTML & CSS) therapeutic. I could sit for hours playing a game of chess with code to make everything work together.

I found myself in a position where a lot of my workload had to be in other areas which were more important (at the time) than doing markup. I tried to continue doing it in my spare time on my own little projects but it was taken out of my day to day role. Instead I’d bookmark and read as many articles as I could, listening carefully to talks and monitoring code snippets. Herein lies the problem. I thought I could learn theory without the practical. I can still piece together some solid markup, my confidence in actually doing so however is lower than it has ever been.

It is clear that I have a lot of interests and trying to learn about them all in their entirety has squandered the chance to practically implement what I’ve learned. Maybe thinking that we should learn everything is utterly delusional, maybe we’re just not supposed take everything in.

I’m only 50% of where I want to be

I’m months away from hitting my 30th birthday and I’m only 50% of where I want to be professionally. Granted I want to learn and share and think there is immense value in doing so but the conclusion is that I can’t learn things and talk about them without implementing them.

So, I’ve decided I’m going to go back to school, or at least I’m going to re-learn those things I miss the most through a practical means and forget about trying to take in all the information I can get my hands on. I’ll only be reading/learning about those things which will directly affect what I am doing practically.

In doing so I’m hoping my confidence issue will disappear and I’ll be back to my normal self. Through controlled data consumption I want to learn more, practice more and share more and this is the start.

Published by


Lead Interaction Designer at DigitalDWP. Organiser of Industry, The Practical Web Conference..