Are You an Input Junkie?

info-overloadAs of 2012 the average attention span in 2012 was 8 seconds according to the Associated Press.  That is 3 seconds less than reported in 2000 – a 25% decline.

It is now official that our attention span is LESS than the attention span of a goldfish!

I heard this statistic while listening to Sally Hogshead talk about the subject of Fascination and how we can capture that limited attention span.  While as a business owner I continue to work hard to learn how to capture people’s attention so I have the opportunity to actually make a difference with them, I couldn’t help but think about the implications of this alarming statistic for my life.

We are bombarded daily with a staggering amount of information.  If I printed my daily e-mails for a month I would probably be classified as a hoarder. Sure there are the spammers, but most of that information I have invited into my inbox in one way or another. There is literally a stack of books on my nightstand (and in my Kindle reader) that seems to grow much faster than it shrinks.

Truth be told I love all that input, including my beloved social media streams, most especially twitter.

But is it really a problem?  Said more personally, do I have a problem?

Have I unwittingly become an input junkie?  I don’t have an answer to that just yet, although I can say I am taking a very honest look in the mirror.

My thinking so far has led me to one conclusion though:

The difference between being an input junkie and having a big appetite for information lies in what I do with the input.  If all I do is read, watch and listen without taking action based on all of that input then I am wasting my time.

Brendan Burchard suggests that if you want to be productive and effective you need to be the driver of your day, rather than let the outside world “run the show” so to speak.  He recommends that, rather than taking in input at the start of your day in the form of signing onto social media, reading e-mail, etc., if you want to be productive and effective you must start your day declaring what you must accomplish and who you must contact.

It occurs to me that if I can apply that approach to all of the input I am both bombarded with and seek daily, I may not quell the massive inflow, but I will make much better choices about what I allow in.  That way I can ensure I have the time and focus essential to take the action required to fulfill on my goals and aspirations.

What about you – are you an input junkie?

What strategies can you offer for dealing with the massive flow of information inevitable in today’s world?


Image credit: sangoiri / 123RF Stock Photo


Enter A Comment

Michelle Spear   |   16 May 2013   |   Reply

I agree with both you and Brendon that we must choose our time for inputs. There are too many things happening that we miss the opportunity to determine which things demand our attention right now and what can wait.

Unfortunately, if you are in an environment in which the mandated policy is that you are to respond to emails and phone calls/voice mails immediately, it’s difficult to get other work done and stay focused on the task at hand.

Susan Mazza   |   16 May 2013   |   Reply

So true Michelle. The expectation of 24/7 availability has created so many challenges to our attention, not to mention our well being! The thing I have been wrestling with is how much of the expectation of 24/7 availability and immediate responsiveness comes from within vs. expectations from others.

Alli Polin   |   16 May 2013   |   Reply

Yup. I’m an input junkie. If I let myself, I can get lost in the mountains of information and insights on Twitter. Have been trying to set boundaries and test my willpower as I tell myself that immediate response is not required to 90% of the emails, tweets and other communication I get. I need to make intentional choices to focus on my work and then switch to focusing on consuming info and engaging on Social Media.

The big wow for me is our average attention span! I’m taking a look at how I connect and the value I offer and asking myself how I can earn more than my 8 seconds.

Got me thinking, Susan!

Susan Mazza   |   16 May 2013   |   Reply

Great point Alli that “immediate response is not required 90% of the time”. Like you said, it is all about making intentional choices.

Please do share any insights/discoveries you have about what it takes to earn more than 8 seconds. Perhaps this is an area in which we can support each other.

Jon Mertz   |   16 May 2013   |   Reply

Yes, we are! There is more information and viewpoints available today than ever before. Some of this is good. For me, it depends on what we do with the inputs. Do we listen? Do we change? Do we engage? Do we make ourselves and others better with the new information?

Maybe by answering these questions, we manage our input more productively.

Great post, Susan! Thanks. Jon

Susan Mazza   |   16 May 2013   |   Reply

These are fantastic questions about what we do with the information Jon. I especially like the last one: “Do we make ourselves and others better with the new information?”

Monica Diaz   |   16 May 2013   |   Reply

Selective slow-down. I picture a physical excersise I once did as a walking meditation with my friend Ron Luyet. You had to walk slower and slower as your awareness shifted. When I do coaching, I imagine a quick flow in front of me, the time my coachee experiences running quickly and I put both my hands into the flow, separating them to open space and hold it. These visual images help me focus. Lately, work has been extra-hectic and I have had to breathe and slow down several times a day. It’s an interesting practice. Thanks for a thoughtful post as always. Hugs from Mexico.

Susan Mazza   |   16 May 2013   |   Reply

Very interesting exercise and way to apply it as a coach. The volume and pace of input coming at us does tend to cause us to speed up. The pull to try to keep us with “all” of it is strong, at least it is for me. Yet to truly take anything meaningful in we must slow down. Thanks for sharing your insight and practice.

Scott Mabry   |   17 May 2013   |   Reply

Love this… “The difference between being an input junkie and having a big appetite for information lies in what I do with the input. If all I do is read, watch and listen without taking action based on all of that input then I am wasting my time.” As someone who loves input this was a great reminder. Maye we need a recovery group. 🙂

Susan Mazza   |   18 May 2013   |   Reply

I think you are on to something Scott… They say the first step is recognizing you have a problem! Glad to know I am in such great company at least.

Sharon Gilmour-Glover   |   22 May 2013   |   Reply

I agree with your perspective Susan; we decide if we’re “input junkies” or people who love a lot of information. I also agree that it really comes down to whether all of the input enriches our life or whether we are running from input to input, expecting it to fix or change things.

I read a great article in the Dec. 2009 Harvard Business Journal called “The Innovator’s DNA”. The authors identified skills that natural innovators use and others can learn. The first skill is called “Associating”. Basically, it’s the ability to connect seemingly disconnected ideas, information and problems. It begs the question, Input Junkie or Natural Innovator? It’s all comes down to perspective.

Here’s a link to the article in case your interested http://hbr.org/2009/12/the-innovators-dna.


Susan Mazza   |   24 May 2013   |   Reply

Input junkie or natural innovator? What a fabulous inquiry Sharon! Thanks for sharing the article as well. It is also a good reminder to make sure my input seeking extends out of my usual areas of interest more often to purposefully stimulate “associating”.