Project Practitioners > The Low-Information Diet

The Low-Information Diet

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


Do you ever feel like you need to know everything at all times? What is this person doing? Where is that person? How is this equipment being used? So many questions, so few answers. Even if those questions are answered, how does it impact your day/week/schedule?

Sometimes, not knowing is the best route. Ignorance is bliss. You become consumed with knowing all things and become paralyzed in the thought of not knowing. Too much information is not necessarily a good thing. The more data, the more choices. The more choices, the more chance for error.

In jiu jitsu, the more you know, the less you use. Your techniques become efficient and effective. You know most of the routes, but choose to nudge your opponent in the most effective route for you. If you try to think of every possibility at the moment, you hesitate and lose position. Your paralysis costs you the match.

Even with vendors, the attraction to more is evitable. If I make $1,000 with one vendor, I can make $10,000 with ten vendors. Sure, the math adds up but so do the headaches. Communication channels become exponential. You go from one to 90 channels. That is a large difference. More is not better. A few reliable contractors are worth a hundred shots in the dark.

Whether it is information, jiu jitsu techniques, or vendors, keep that diet simple. Here is how:


Block Out Times

No need to respond immediately to all things. If it is important enough, a phone call will do. Make public the times you check email. An automatic response stating those times lets people know when to expect a response from you. Plus, it gives you the advantage of not having to check it every few minutes for the latest information.

Morning and afternoon should suffice. Maybe an evening check if the project is at a crucial moment. Three times a day for an hour should be plenty of emails. You can respond to an email every 3-5 minutes for an hour. Those 12-20 emails should progress the day until the next one-hour email block.

An estimate hits your inbox. What is the difference if you send that estimate to the owner at 9 am or 1 pm? You likely will not get a response until the next day on approval. If you get an immediate response, the contractor will not be available until the next day or later. Your four-hour difference has zero impact on the overall schedule.

If the answer is important enough, people will call or text as a follow-up. Eventually, your email reading policy catches on, and people abide by your rules. They have no choice.


Turn Off Notifications

There is no need to be connected at all times. News flash, you are not that important. And if you have made yourself that important, you messed up a long time ago. There is no reason your team is not empowered enough to make most decisions. For the ones you need to make, a phone call is simple.

You do not need to know when every email, call, and text is coming in at all moments of the day and night. This influx of beeps and bings allows abuse. All of a sudden, someone is texting you at night about mundane issues that can wait a lifetime, let alone until tomorrow. The second you crack open that door, people will kick it in.

Respect your time and attention because no one else will. If you allow it to happen, good luck taking it away at some point. Your constant giving of time and attention never becomes enough. People take, take, take, then when you take, they are shocked. Do not be a slave to your phone or device.


Stay On Task

Some people like to ramble about nonrelated issues. Keep the conversation/meeting/project on task. You want to talk about the delayed shipment of material. Someone else starts to talk about a rift in the vendor hierarchy. Sure, this may be a reason for delays, but nothing can be done about it. The discussion needs to revert to solving the issue instead of pointing fingers.

The meeting where nothing happens occurs way too often. People start to dominate the time with their issues instead of the project’s issues. Meetings should remain for issues that pertain to everyone, not only individuals. ‘Hot topics’ is a subject line that can be used for these items.

The project is the focus. The team is the next focus. After that, the meeting is over. No need to break it down to the individual level unless that person’s problem is realized by more than one individual. Then, classify it as a hot topic and present it to the masses. Otherwise, throw it to the side for water cooler talk and get back on track.



Everyone always wants more information. A person can never know or learn enough. At a certain point, mastery comes from knowing all but using very few. The sculpture appears by taking pieces away.

Jiu jitsu is a fantastic example of black belts who know a lot but use very few. They can teach everything from a single leg takedown to the fanciest of berimbolo back takes. However, when you watch them in competition or train in the room, very little of that is used. It becomes about 100% efficiency and minimizing space. Add a mountain’s worth of pressure, and you start to see the full picture.

The same can be done in project management. Sure, you should know most, if not all, the topics, domains, and process groups for the professional exam. In reality, you use the same few over and over again to perfection. You are honing and sharpening those techniques over time to make them the best project management weapon.

You are taking away material to become better. If the blade stays blunt and heavy, it is not as effective as pounding the steel down to a razor’s edge. That ability to deload can be more valuable than uploading.



This low information diet eliminates distractions and keeps the focus intense. A broad, all-knowing approach is all-consuming. Start to narrow your expertise to become the best. Eliminating knowledge is the same as deloading. You still maintain the overall knowledge but do not use it out of conscious thought.

Knowing and not using is the technique. Knowing and using should be reserved for those ultimate techniques that are fail-proof. You know them inside and out. There is a process to their success. No guessing is involved. You know this works.

Deloading is also decluttering. Between our ears is a powerful weapon called a brain. You muddle that thing up with nonsense, and every decision becomes important and life-changing. You keep only the best of the best between your ears and decision making becomes secondhand. You react appropriately to conflict.

The low information diet keeps you slim, trim, mean fighting machine.

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