Garbage In, Garbage Out…How a Programming Term Applies to Everyday Life

garbage in garbage out
This post was previously published. It has been updated.


In programming, we have a term: GIGO. It stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out. It is particularly apt in my professional field because too often clients expect us to take mangled data and buff it into usable format, without any guidance or structure. GIGO.

GIGO isn’t just in data, though. I find it really does play a lot into the rest of my life.

GIGO and Information Intake

There is a lot of information available on the web these days. Search for anything and you will be rewarded by hundreds of links. The problem is that not all of these links contain equally worthwhile material.

Anyone can write material for the web, whether they know anything about the subject or not. We require garbage filters to handle this plethora of information: clearing away obvious fallacies and logic errors; and cross-checking information are two that pop into mind. Without these filters, lots of garbage goes in.

And guess what? The more garbage information you take in, without validating it, the more clutter in your mind. It can cloud your outlook and actions. Garbage in, garbage out.

The only way to get around this is to develop critical thinking skills. Weed out the garbage before it gets in, and your output will be of much better quality.

GIGO and Food Intake

This is one that I have been aware of for some time, but it has come back to me recently with a vengeance. I went grocery shopping recently when I was hungry. That led to several packages of cookies, three chocolate bars and a box of ice cream bars finding their way into my house.

I notice is that with every piece of junk I eat, my body gets sluggish and I feel poor. When I switch and eat fresh fruits and veggies, lots of water, whole grains, I feel much better.

Garbage in, garbage out.

The only way to get around this is to pay attention to what I put in. If I want to be on top of my game, I can’t be eating junk.

GIGO and Activities

With my focus on making deliberate choices of how I spend my time, I am aware of how easy it is to be sucked into the rabbit warren of distraction.

Open my phone? 15 minutes disappears on Instagram. Sit in the living room? 30 minutes disappears on watching a television show that my daughter picked out that doesn’t even really interest me. Go on Amazon to buy replacement filters for the house humidifiers? An hour gone as I look through clothing, decor and electronic items.

When I get sucked in to these low-value activities I find myself sluggish and grumpy. When I choose activities – even if they are relaxing ones – I feel energized and productive.

I can only get around this garbage by being aware of what I am doing and asking myself if it is something I chose to do, or if it is something I’ve been distracted by.

The quality of my life is directly related to what I choose to put into it. I need to always be aware that taking in garbage means I will not be living my best life.

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