Our brain processes an unlimited amount of information everyday. Think about it. Data coming at us through our work, radio, social media, newspapers, commute time, television, video and the list goes on.
How can anyone keep up with it all? In Shawn Achor’s, bestselling book Before Happiness, we can benefit from some very helpful tips he gives on how to separate the noise from the valuable. Before sharing them, I would like to first highlight something he doesn’t mention which I feel is really important. That is to create a special place dedicated to helping you to do your best thinking! I have several “thinking places” because my topics vary and require a different kind atmosphere. When it comes to thinking and planning around life and family, there isn’t a better place than my old brown leather sofa at home. I love its big “end arm” that allows me to curl up with a warm blanket and my favorite tea with honey and just a pinch of sugar. It is also here where I pray. Not only is it important to have a special place to think, but the time dedicated to do the thinking. For me, family and prayer thinking time usually happens very early in the morning (swap the tea for coffee) or very late at night. And for work – it’s the treadmill. I am big Paul Simon fan and I love to think while listening to tunes like Me and Julio Down By the School Yard or She’s Got Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes. The music is fun, cheery with a great beat – and I always finish with some new ideas or possible solutions to whatever I am working on. Yes, identifying a special place to think about things is really important. But to be successful – you will have to block out the noise. For family and prayerful thinking, the television is off and all is pretty quiet. Treadmill thinking is the exact opposite – music is loud with lots of people movement at the gym. But in either place, my mind is focused only on those things – I cancel any “noise” that could distract me.
Now for Shawn’s tips on how to “cancel” the noise so that you are better equipped at taking in information that is going to provide some value:
Don’t Take in the Unusable: Only take in information that will REALLY alter some aspect of your behavior. Sadly, most of the information that floods your brain on a daily or even an hourly basis fits into the “unusable” category. For example, don’t dwell on news stories about events that you cannot do anything about through a continuous change in your behavior (something that would alter what you do regularly).
Avoid the Untimely: Don’t take in information that you aren’t going to use imminently. If you intend to hold stocks for the long run, why check the stock market each day?
Hypothetical: It is based on what someone believes “could be” instead of “what is.” Economic and weather forecasts head the list. “What if you could have back all the minutes of your life you’ve spent listening to predictions – 90 per cent of which have been wrong?” he asks in the book.
Anything Distracting: It takes you away from your goals. Things that distract me include dumb emails; meeting invitations that are not directly tied to my own work priorities and goals, too much “water cooler” chatter, annoying commuters (yes I will definitely get up and move if I am sitting next to Ms. Sniffles).
Shawn’s book is chock full of recommendations and tips on how to ensure happiness. The Happiness Advantage is also a great read. It is not that he wants us to shut the world out, but to focus on the things that are really meaningful,” And to bookend that, TRUTHSTOINSPIRE recommends that you create a special place just to think about whatever is really important after you’ve blocked out all the noise. Thinking about prayer, family, home, or work matters are really worth creating that special place for you to do your best thinking.