Signal vs. Noise

Signal is what matters. Noise is just that: filler, distractions, what doesn’t move the needle.

Focusing on the signal is essential.
But most in the world is noise.
So how do you hone in on the signal?

General heuristics for finding signal

In the bolded main bullet, I write the heuristics. In the subpoints, I give examples of what follows from them.

  • If it isn’t relevant in 1 year, it isn’t now.
    • Don’t follow the news. If it’s relevant, it’ll find its way to you.
  • Curate your sources of information, but make room for serendipity.
    • Make curated feeds, e.g., twitter lists, for topics you are interested in. Then you’ll see only what you want to see.
    • Block ads.
    • Unsubscribe from newsletters you were automatically subscribed to.
    • Immediately filter out anything you don’t care about.
    • Why make room for serendipity? How do you know that you aren’t at the local maxima for information curation? You don’t, which is why you make room for serendipity: you allow for a bit of randomness in the system. This may be through curators or self-exploration—making time to explore once in a while.
  • Leverage tools for capturing information for later.
    • Much of what you stumble upon online seems very important and pressing to read in the moment. By adding it to a read-later system, the novelty period wears off, so you are better suited to judge whether consuming it is worth it.
    • My system: How I Process Inputs From the Internet.
  • Finding signal requires you know what to look for.
    • If you don’t know what constitutes signal, you cannot discern it from noise. Therefore, you need to carefully define what you are focusing on, so you can know what you should not focus on.
    • This lets you be aware of Opportunity Cost. If you know what you should focus on, you know what in that area moves the needle the most. Therefore you can also classify the low ROI activities or things as noise, in comparison to the high ROI activities or things.