Cut through the Data Weeds – Preventing Data Confusion

In mydataweeds last blog post, I talked about how the data deluge is affecting our emotions, making us more confused and skeptical. Today, I want to spend some time looking at some tips to minimize the confusion data can cause. As Albert Einstein once aptly stated, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

The sheer volume and diversity of data we face every day can become confusing as David Woods et al. have pointed out in their research. We have to look no further than the front page of the New York Times for the beginnings of the data deluge. Over 420,000 people read the New York Times each day, and the Times is just one among 3-4 news sources consumed. On the front page of the NY Times Monday, September 14, 2015, there were 16 unique stories, 5 pictures, and 20 numbers (not counting the paper volume number and retail price). Given that the human brain contains roughly 100 billion neurons, how do we optimize the information while reducing the confusion?

  • Limit the amount of data you see at the same time.To minimize your confusion, I’d like to propose the following tips:
  • Prioritize the data you see into important, interesting but not important, or non-important categories.
  • Step away from the screen(s) and hop up and down.

Ok, so the third tip won’t necessarily reduce your confusion but movement is good for the brain and maybe it will at least make you smile.

Reducing the number of tabs you’ve got open on your desktop or intentionally, only looking at one device at a time, and taking the time to decide whether the data is important or not reduces confusion. Cutting through the “weeds” of data lowers your stress level and helps your brain better process the information that’s important to you.

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