Filtering Life: Is it Need to Know or Neat to Know?

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Over the past few weeks I have been repeating a phrase to several of my clients:

Is this information need to know or neat to know?

This simple principle was learned from a researcher I used to work with. As he assisted me with marketing research projects, I would often ask him to add a new question to the survey (usually many new questions!). He would consistently push back and ask me this question – is this need or neat to know?

What he did was marvelously simple! He made me re-examine my strategic goals. When I could show him how the new question related to my project goals it was added. When it did not align, no matter how cool the question was, he would strike it from the list.

This principle is incredibly important in modern society. We live in a world that is information rich. Our children have more access to information on a Kindle than ancient Alexandrian libraries ever had! However, this privilege means that our choices about what to access and what to pass on are more important than ever.

We are barraged by media who tell us everything they are saying is “need to know!”. It’s not.

We are confronted by stories in our news-feed every day that promise to tell us Three things that will _______ (fill in the blank with something that will change your life forever). They don’t.

We are presented with countless business opportunities and strategies that we must consider. We shouldn’t.


So what do you need to know? This question is best answered by examining your priorities. Information is a powerful tool. But to use it effectively, you need to use it in response to your ‘needs’. And those are much different than your ‘neats’.


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