How to overcome information addiction

Published by Nela Dunato on in ADHD, Business, Productivity, Tips for creatives

How to overcome information addiction

Hello, I’m Nela and I’m an information addict.

I’ve been one ever since I remember – always with my nose in a book, thirsty for knowledge. I’d read all the textbooks before the school year even started. I’d read novels in a single afternoon, and quickly ran out of books to read in our tiny small town school library.

All my childhood photos are either me holding a book, or playing with a cat. This one in particular features both a book and a cat.

Child Nela age 3, reading a book in the company of a white and gray tabby cat
Nela and her trusty sidekick circa 1989

When I first got access to the internet, it was like a rainstorm in Sahara – access to more content than I could ever read. Blogs, tutorials, ebooks, podcasts, videos, e-courses… And I wanted to consume them all.

I now have hundreds of gigabytes of various material on my computer and phone, and some of that I never read or watched. But many of the things I did read (which is still an impressive amount) I never used in my life, art or business. I read a book and file it away as “useful information”, and never do a thing with it.

Information addiction is my second biggest block to growing my business

(What’s the first one, you ask? Self-doubt.)

The reason why I classify this as a serious business block is because information addiction has these unpleasant consequences:

  1. Consuming information is a huge time suck.
  2. You don’t take action, because you feel like you always need to learn more.
  3. Reading conflicting advice from different sources can cause choice paralysis.

The result of all of this is: you don’t do anything.

You’re stuck in the same place for months and years, even though you may feel like you’re making progress, because you’ve been accumulating so much information through books, courses, workshops, blogs etc.

But information is not knowledge.

Information is just information. Knowledge comes from testing something and experiencing the results. You can’t know something for sure if you haven’t tried it. Before implementing it, all the supposed “knowledge” we have is just an assumption that may be wrong.

Progress doesn’t come from information, but implementation.

Progress comes from the unsexy part of taking a shovel in your hands (or a pen, or a keyboard, or a paintbrush) and doing the work. And oh, how hard is that!

So much psychological junk (also called Resistance) comes out when you’re seriously considering taking action.

“I don’t know how to do that well enough.”

“This is going to suck, and people will hate it.”

I’ll fail and embarrass myself.”

“What if it doesn’t work? I’ll have wasted time and money.”

People will think I’m insane. And maybe they’re right.”

Hoarding information is safe – it doesn’t require you to change anything.

You just collect and consume, collect and consume, and never have to worry about looking like a total fool. While the positive side of this is that you, indeed, never make a spectacle of yourself, the negative side of this is that you never make any kind of spectacle.

If you see this as a problem in your own life, you may be wondering how you can deal with that. Here are some things that helped me, and I hope they’ll give you some ideas to try out.

Techniques for dealing with information addiction

Information addiction is a habit, and it’s not something you can just stop doing tomorrow. It’s hard to stop it when you’ve been doing it for a long time, so set a reasonable goal for yourself. Just one tiny step at a time is still better than what you’re doing now. Celebrate the tiny steps, and don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to get where you want.

1. Create a system for preserving the information you know

This is the first, and the most crucial step.

Your brain will suddenly go into panic mode if you just say one day, “No more information”. You’ll start to worry that you don’t know enough, and won’t have any resources to help you out with your decisions, and that’s just not true.

I wrote more about this and gave some suggestions how you can create those systems in my previous post You already know enough – Tips to stop forgetting the important stuff.

Once you start witnessing how much useful information you already possess, this will calm you down and also provide a starting point for your implementation step.

2. List the things you wish to learn that are directly related to your goal

What is your main goal? It can be a life goal, or a business goal, or an artistic goal, but you have to know what it is.

Only if you know your goal, will you be able to discern whether some piece of information is useful and relevant for your situation.

Once you’re clear on your goal, try to imagine a path to your goal, and list all the unknowns on this path. If you don’t know how a certain step toward your goal could be broken down further, write that – you need to talk to someone who has done it, or read a resource about this particular step so you can chart your path more precisely.

If you need to learn how to use a piece of equipment or software, list that – but with the express intention to only learn the features that are relevant to your goal. Specify the features you need to learn that will enable you to complete the steps you need.

3. Rank the things you wish to learn by importance

Some of the things you listed are crucial, while some would be “nice to know”. There’s no point in wasting time on “nice to know” things that will become important 3 months down the line, if there’s something essential you need to learn to get started on your goal now.

Add grades from 1 to 10 next to your list items, with 10 being the most pressing priority. And no, not all of them can be a 10. Pick one that is most important for you to move forward to the next step.

4. Set aside a few hours every week to seek out targeted information

The number of hours depends on how much time you have. If you work full time in your business, you can dedicate 3-4 hours a week, but if you’re pursuing a business or a passion project on the side of your day job, an hour is enough.

Put those time slots in your calendar, and whenever you find yourself tempted to go read another resource, file it away for your designated learning time.

Since I’m terrible at self-control, I use apps and add-ons for blocking certain websites during certain days and hours (Firefox add-on LeechBlock, and an Android app FocusON).

5. Schedule implementation

Make a new rule: no learning new things if I still haven’t implemented what I’ve learned last week.

It’s really simple, there are only two possible answers:

Should I learn new information?

This is where having strong willpower will come handy, but willpower is not my favorite thing to rely on, so I use a different bag of tricks.

One thing that can make this decision easier is to think of what tangible results the implementation will bring, as opposed to no tangible results of just reading more stuff. Working is more difficult than reading, so your brain will try to fight you on this one (which is the reason why I block certain websites and apps).

Once you’ve implemented the new information, go back to number 4 and repeat the last two steps, until you’ve crossed all the things off your “to learn” list. Once you’re done, evaluate where you are on your path to the goal and make a new list.

Sometimes, learning something new opens up new questions – this is to be expected, and whenever it happens, just add it to your list. Don’t make exceptions and dive immediately into learning this new thing you’ve discovered, because that will ruin the integrity of your list, and you’ll take it less seriously in the future. Just add it to the list – it’s not that hard.

To recap, here are the 5 steps to cure information addiction:

  1. Create a system for preserving and reviewing the information you know.
  2. List the things you wish to learn that are directly related to your goal.
  3. Rank the things you wish to learn by importance.
  4. Set aside time every week to seek out targeted information.
  5. Schedule implementation: no learning new things until you’ve acted on information you’ve already gathered.

Option two: hard reset

If you’re in so deep that changing habits in a small way proves too difficult, you may want to try a “detox” period of 7, 10, or even 30 days of no new information whatsoever. This challenge forces you to deal with all the unpleasant feelings that arise for the first few days, and then re-building your daily routine based on how you really want to live and work, without distractions. You can fill your schedule with useful activities, and later when you reintroduce media into your life, there will be fewer pockets of time to do it in.

Take control of your social media addiction, regain your peace of mind & double your productivity.

My Digital Detox Guide

After many years of taking regular social media sabbaticals (ranging from 7 days to 2 months), I created a guide that helps you prepare for your own digital detox, avoid common pitfalls, and develop a healthier relationship with media and technology even after the detox.

Learn more about My Digital Detox Guide

I’ve written about the benefits and results of my regular digital detoxes in several articles:

Some folks may find this too extreme, but I’m a big fan of unplugging, and have been doing it regularly for years. Try and see if it helps!

Are you an information hoarder?

I hope this was a useful read, and if you have any other tips, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments.

How have you dealt with this issue? Let me know!


Some blog articles contain affiliate links to products on Amazon. I’ll get paid a few cents if you buy something using my link, and there’s no extra charge to you.

8 responses to “How to overcome information addiction”

  1. Hello Nela,
    I found your topic quite important for keeping in mind, I found it after a Google search,

    I enjoy nature so I first started a related career but changed my mind for aerospace in which I have struggled mentally and feel no excitement about except for the possibility to get to fly drones for joy :) and humanitarian purposes, which will require me to ACT with feet on the ground because I have been so scared that I find myself reading only and not even acting to get to start Shadowing a drone pilot and focus about this profession that excites me and could get me a living and get myself out of the deep hole I’m stuck now.

    It is true that technology gives us access to a ridiculous amount of info that for me it has been programming softwares, blogs of DIY drones, drone news trends in industry, Which I do look for all the time mostly for these past two years and i am not even using for joy or living.

    I do recognize it and being kind to myself I trully consider that taking the time to connect with your Post is a small victory for me.
    Thank you!! , for putting to words what is Gold to remember, so we can lift us up while keeping our feet on the ground with our dreams.

  2. Hello Óscar,
    thank you for your comment, I’m so glad that you’ve found your way here and that this article was helpful to you.

    Just remember, no judgement – the past is past, and now it’s all about what you want to do today, tomorrow, next week… I hope you’ll find the courage to make small steps towards your goal and your new career!

    I wish you the best of luck.

  3. Hi, I am glad to find you. I really suffer a lot and came to a point of complete paralysis. Thank you,

  4. Hi Nela, I have a question for you… I have a hard time not turning the tv on at meals. It’s just too tempting, and that is a source of information and distraction as well… Do you have any tips for it? Cause I tried replacing the tv for a radio but it didn’t work out. And I live with someone else who likes watching tv so I can’t remove it from the kitchen.

  5. Hi Eileen,
    unfortunately my partner also watches a lot of TV, and I don’t have any tips on how to eliminate it if your partner is not on board (mine is not). We have one in the living room (it’s an open plan) and whenever he’s at home, it’s turned on.

    I lived without a TV for 5-6 years, so I don’t even remember to turn it on until I sit down on the couch in the evening, which is when the temptation is the highest. Usually when I cook, I put on some podcasts on my phone to pass the time. Radio would never work for me since it’s too random. I prefer controlling what I watch/listen to. So maybe try out some podcasts on your favorite subjects if the silence or the music isn’t working for you?

    I don’t think it’s necessarily about eliminating every single source of distraction, but to stuff it into pockets of time when you wouldn’t have otherwise be doing something more useful, and to pay attention to what kind of contents you’re absorbing. Everything in moderation! :)

  6. Hey Nela,

    Thanks for the wonderful article! I just wanted to let you and your readers know about a 12 step fellowship called Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous that has helped myself and many other people recover from internet addiction (including its subset, information addiction). Thanks again for the great read! I appreciate the time you put into writing this.


    • Hi Chris, I’m glad to hear that this program has worked for you!
      It’s been well documented that 12-step programs don’t work for everyone’s needs, so it’s best that people do some research on all that’s currently available. Psychotherapy is a great option to look into as well.

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