Back in Mozart’s day, music was a rare thing. If you had an opportunity to hear good music, it was a special treat and something you’d definitely want to take advantage of. Now days, music can be found everywhere. People listen to it while working, while driving, while exercising. Music can put you to sleep at night and wake you up in the morning. With access to music everywhere, the hard part is deciding what you are not going to listen to because there are just so many options.
It wasn’t that long ago that books were a rare treasure. They were difficult and expensive to produce. Even after the invention of the printing press, there was limited choice on what was available to read. Desktop publishing has changed all that. As it has become easier to create a book, the number of titles has skyrocketed. In my office right now, I have well over 1,000 books…and that is after de-cluttering our library by selling or giving away the books that were too outdated to be useful.
The same thing has happened to newspapers and magazines, not to mention the Internet, which gives you access to video, text, pictures and audio on nearly any subject imaginable.
The result of this explosion of information is that we have to become significantly more selective regarding what we consume. Long gone are the days where your family bookshelf would consist of a few well worn volumes that were read again and again. You have to put a great deal of effort into filtering your available inputs. If you want to learn about gardening, you don’t have time to read 200 books dealing with your topic. Nor do you have time to research every possible website on growing tomatoes.
So how do you become more selective? Here are some tips that can help:
1. Learn to search effectively
Since so much of what we learn comes from the Internet, knowing how to write more specific search strings can go a long way toward refining your options. For example, putting a phrase in quotes “like this” is a great way to avoid results that contain the words, but not the phrase you are looking for. Adding + to a word will make sure it appears in the results while – will make sure you don’t get any results that contain that word.
2. Pay attention to reviews
Before I read a book, I will check out the reviews on Amazon. I look at the overall score and then read a few of positive reviews and a few of the negative ones. I’ve found that the negative reviews can often confirm that a book is exactly what I’m looking for while steering me away from less appropriate choices. For example, if I’m looking for an advanced book on a topic, I’d want to see a reasonably good score with a few negative reviews saying that the book was too difficult for a beginner to grasp.
3. Ask friends
This is where social networks can be very helpful. If your friends share similar interests, they can be a great filter for finding books, music or pretty much anything. In fact, Google’s foray into social networking with Google Plus looks like it is going to try to make use of these types of recommendations in tailoring your results to favor sites that your friends recommend.
4. Be willing to give up and move on
With so many options available, allow yourself to stop reading, listening or watching if something isn’t a good fit for your learning style and interests. Allow yourself to move on to other options. Obviously you don’t want to give up on something just because it is hard, but you don’t need to persevere when there are better fits available to you. I spent quite a few hours slogging through The Sound and the Fury before I finally admitted to myself that even though Faulkner received a Nobel Prize in Literature, there were other books that would probably be a better use of my time.
You have a finite amount of time. Modern technology means you are much less constrained by physical access to media. Being consciously selective in what you consume can lead to a much richer life experience.