Review: The Information Diet by Clay Johnson

If there’s one book that is the ideal one to add to your 2012 reading list, it’s Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet. In fact, I’d suggest you read it first because it will inevitably make you rethink not just what’s on your reading list for this year, but what is in on your intake list from now on.
Johnson appeared on ProductiVardy in December of 2011 and he’s further offered ways on how to start an Information Diet over at Lifehacker 1, so I’ll quickly dive into my thoughts on the book and also explore my main takeaway from it – which might be different from what you’d think.

My Impressions

The book looks at several components of our information intake, such as drawing the comparison between what we tend to think of as a traditional diet (i.e. food) and an information diet. As someone who is taking steps to treat his body better going forward with better eating habits, I found this portion of the book resonated with me. The term “everything in moderation” came to mind as I wrapped up this part of Johnson’s book, and I began to cull my RSS subscriptions as readily as I’d been culling my cabinets of cereal and sugary snacks right after finishing it.

Then I dove into the meat of the book: the implementation of an information diet. As mentioned earlier, Johnson offers up plenty of tools and services that can help you start off on the right foot, as well as some sage advice on how to stay on track.

It was at this point in the book that I began to think about what role I played in not just dealing with the information I chose to receive, but the information I was giving out via this weblog and other online portals. I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve done in the past and how I plan to deliver information in the future, and I think it’s something we all need to really think about. How much is too much? Not just about the types of information that we’re sharing, but the information that we’re sharing as a whole. How much junk are we putting out there?

I think it’s okay to “snack” on information, but I believe we spend too much time “snacking” on in formation and not enough information “savouring” it. As in, I skim through a lot of written work just to say that I’ve “read” it (when actually I’ve just managed to “see” it or catch a glimpse of it) rather than actually read it. My Instapaper is chock full of articles that I planned to read later. Later still hasn’t arrived. I’m not saying that good information has gone bad, but it certainly isn’t as fresh anymore – at least not in my mind as something I need to digest.

Less snacking, more savouring. Delivering fewer words with empty calories, and offering more words with nutritional value. Those are my main takeaways after reading The Information Diet.

The Verdict

Whether you spend time online or offline, we are getting hit with a ton of information each and every day. How we deal with that information is fundamental to our lives; what we choose take in can strongly impact our way we see the world. Johnson’s book is a meaty read, and might be tough to digest for some people. But it’s a healthy one as well.

I can’t think of many books that are more important to check out, no matter the time of year. While a nutritional lifestyle change is often fodder for many resolutions as we kick off a new year, taking a look at the amount and type of information we’re letting into our minds is just as crucial.

Feast on this book. It has the ability to change your life on so many levels for the better. Give your mind a cleanse and grab a copy of The Information Diet. It’s a filling – and fulfilling – reading experience.

1Well worth the read, by the way.