The Seductive Lure of Meaningless Information

03/30/2015 06:39 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2015

After years of faithful service, my toaster needed replacing. It had browned its last bagel. So one Sunday morning, I went online to shop for a new one. Did you know that if you search for "toaster" on Amazon you get 1,572 to choose from?

So I had some decisions to make. Do I want a two-slice toaster or a four-slice toaster? Maybe I need one that also toasts muffins and cooks an egg. Do I want one that is red, blue or maybe teal with dots? Or perhaps one that looks like Darth Vader's helmet and stamps each slice with "Star Wars."

Wanting to be an educated toaster purchaser, I started reading reviews. I wanted to understand the technology behind my toaster, and to figure out which would be the best one for us.

Fast-forward 30 minutes, and a startling realization hit me like a bolt of lightning: I was spending my precious time on a Sunday morning reading about toasters.

This was not a major purchase that required this level or research, nor was it a major investment. All the toasters I was considering were less than $50. And despite all those amazing options, I really just wanted to toast my morning bagel. Any of the toasters I looked at could handle that task.

I stopped my research, purchased a toaster and went back to enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning with my wife Heidi.

Now there's nothing wrong in spending time reading reviews on the Internet, or doing research on an item you'd like to purchase. As British philosopher Bertrand Russell said, "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

But I was not enjoying researching toasters. I had just fallen into the 30-minute toaster trap. I was spending time on something that didn't really matter to me, an incredibly easy thing to do these days with the wealth of information available to us on the Internet.

I'll go out on a limb here and say we've all done it. We look up from our computer, iPad or iPhone, where we've just spent time on something that is really of no importance to us when we could have been engaging in a more meaningful activity. And that's my definition of wasted time.

Part of this propensity to waste time this way is because we live in a society characterized by a gluttony of choice. Just go to buy toothpaste at the drugstore and you're presented with dozens of choices. When presented with so many choices, we often feel compelled to make an educated choice. Which leads us to research and read reviews on something that we really don't care much about.

What I learned from falling into that toaster trap is that sometimes the wisest choice is to just make a choice that suits your needs quickly, and go back to living your life and do something more meaningful to you.

Time is our most precious resource. As a wise man once said, "There are three things you cannot recover in life: the moment after it's gone, the word after it's said, and the time after it's wasted."

It's incredibly easy to spend time on things that don't really matter. If you are not careful, all of the sudden you'll find yourself deep in thought reading toaster reviews, forfeiting your favorite time with your family.

We live in a world that offers a gluttony of choice. (Do we really need hundreds of toasters to choose from?) Sometimes the right choice is to choose quickly, and get back to living your life.

Have you fallen into the 30-minute toaster trap?

David Geller is the author of Wealth and Happiness: Using Your Wealth to Create a Better Life. He is the CEO of Atlanta-based GV Financial Advisors and is available for professional speaking engagements.

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