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As I sit here starting to write this post, I am painfully aware that my life is one big information overwhelm. This overwhelm is far worse now that I’m writing and blogging and working a full time day job.
I meant this to be a post about how to create peace despite the vast amounts of data that come your way every day over the airwaves, across a network, or on good old-fashioned paper.
And realized that maybe I’m going to fail miserably because I’m still learning to tame the beast myself.
So, let’s give this a try and see how it goes …
It’s ironic that I have only a limited sense of peace about the amount of information I’m being bombarded with. I am the Zen introvert after all. It’s also no wonder my dreams are amazing and weird.
So, I’m confessing right here and now that I need as much help as you do. I get it. There’s not only all the information you need for your jobs, there’s also the sheer amount you need to know just to navigate daily living. In addition, there is all the information we somehow fall into or trip across.
I first saw the idea for an information “diet” in Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Work Week”. In it he shows how he streamlined the amount of information coming to him.
It’s an awesome theory, it really is brilliant. He has cut out reading or listening to the news all together, reads two periodicals a month and reads exactly one hour of fiction a night. He also reads email ONCE A WEEK. This gives him much more time to do the things he loves.
I do love the theory, but the idea of cutting down on reading hurts my book and word lover’s heart.
Most of us cannot live in an information vacuum. However, there are things we can do to tone down our intake.
Just like being selective with calories, we also need to be selective about the information we consume.
I did like Tim’s handling of the news … he stopped consuming it completely.
Local, Country and World news is not only massive in volume, it’s also extremely repetitive. Try this … spend a few days clicking around to different news programs on the TV noticing what stories they have in common, as well how many times on different days certain stories repeat. I’m talking about broadcast news only not cable news so disregard CNN and Fox … which have a multitude of problems I’m not even going to go into.
No lie, I’ve seen stories that repeat like they’re new news on two or three different days.
This is one area that I have managed to almost completely eliminate.
Not only does the sheer repetition of the world horrors interfere with my Zen, there’s not too much I can realistically do about it.
I also have some anxiety issues and it certainly doesn’t help my immediate world if I’m suffering over the terrible things going on in the larger world. I can better help in my local community and make a difference here.
Email is a tough habit to break but there are steps you can take steps to thin down the herd a little, particularly with personal email. How many websites have you gone to and signed up for their newsletters or broadcasts? Now how many of those emails do you still read? Be honest, how many just go to the trash unopened? Do you have a sense of pleasure when you see them in your inbox? If the answer is no, unsubscribe.
Turn your spam filter up to high and only whitelist email addresses that give you information you want or need. I’ve found that this is a great way to catch nasty spam before it goes into your inbox. If I start seeing certain domains too often (such as the recent amazon order update and confirm fiasco), I have the option to blacklist them and I never see them again. I’m also able to bulk delete or report spam emails a day.
Tim Ferriss also recommends checking your email twice a day and to not check email first thing in the morning. It’s better to get the most difficult task off your plate before you get distracted with email. It works, I’ve tried it. My morning starts much easier than it does when I check my email first thing and find a fire drill (not to me but to someone else) or something upsetting or irritating.
I’ve also completely stopped checking my day job email in the evening and on the weekends. That’s my time and reserved for family (and blogging …)
Magazines are fairly easy to cut down or eliminate. I have four magazine subscriptions and right now, the to-read pile is over a foot high, might be close to two feet. Why? Because they’re usually on the bottom of my “to consume” list. Three are art magazines and one is a massage magazine that comes with my therapist insurance.
Take a good hard look at your magazines, do you read them when they come in? If no, don’t renew it. I did not renew the three art magazines. I can’t do much with the massage magazine subscription, but I do drop them off at my doctor’s waiting room after I’m done. Media donation is a really good thing.
Yeah … books. I have nothing useful to contribute to this category because my to-read pile is so big it has its own bookcase. That doesn’t even count my massage, horoscope, blogging and reiki reference books.
I also have a bibliophile attachment disorder that makes it really difficult to donate or sell my books.
My biggest recent victory is signing up for a Denver Library card so I can download books, audible books or videos to my tablet. Yay me!
I guess I don’t consider these a “bombardment” because there’s a large amount of free will involved.
There really should be a YouTube anonymous meeting. I’d be the first one through the door. Really. I’m totally addicted to art how to videos. If used for how-to reference, it’s a beautiful thing. The Ted talks alone are worth dipping your toes into YouTube. However, it’s a vast and deep rabbit hole to fall into, Alice.
All things in moderation. I watch Ted talks, Abraham Hicks videos, some art how to videos and for some reason that spirals downhill into unimaginable places.
This is one that I’m striving to cut down on and I’ve successfully limited myself to once a week and I set a timer for an hour.
Internet in General
So, I’m already overwhelmed between a blogging class; a copywriting class; research for my articles; information I need for my day job; random and many websites that I find interesting; all the information that I’m digging through so I can be a better blogger; and whatever pleasure reading I can eek out of my spare time. Whew!
Overwhelm in its purest form.
Knowing that I wanted to use some Tim Ferriss quotes for this post, I Googled “low-information diet” since I know that’s one of his blog categories. When I found the page I was looking for I whimpered. Yeah, if I’d looked at it for another minute more I’d have been under my desk with my thumb in my mouth.
As it was, I stopped counting posts after I hit 20, realized that it would have taken hours to read them all and decided to wing this post based on my own experience.
If you’d like to see what reduced me to a whimpering mess, click here. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tim. I really like the way he writes and I am working my way through some of his really great ideas. But it’s still information that needs to be sifted through and analyzed.
The internet is really the last frontier. It’s the collective brain child of millions of people and sometimes the amount of sheer information out there is suffocating. Use with care and if your brain starts locking up, go look at some flowers and take a deep breath.
Social media has connected the world and made it a more interesting place. Social media has, in my eyes, made us less sociable. It’s easy to communicate with someone who’s half a world away yet we still have problems talking to people face to face. At least the introverts do, we’re all about online communications. The extroverts love face to face communications and they love group chats.
Social media is also addicting, it turns on the pleasure centers in our brains to post comments that receive likes, to like other’s comments and pictures. It’s delightful and sometimes decadent and tickles our desire to view someone else’s life.
Again, moderation is key here. I’ve cut Facebook time in half and I try to only go there for blog related things. But I do check in on friends and family. I know people who only use it for business and have unfollowed friends and family choosing to go to their pages only when time allows.
Social Media is a blogger’s best friend as far as finding an audience and driving traffic. I appreciate its power and its ability to form connections and tribes of likeminded souls.
The Tools to Tame the Beast
Taming the overwhelm beast is a matter of picking and choosing. I spend my first few minutes in the morning charting out what I need to accomplish each day, including how much research is needed or if my daily tasks include scheduling a post and working with social media. I’ve found that using my journal is a tool to tame overwhelm.
I’ve also found that limiting my hours spent on personal web surfing outside of my job and my blog is also helpful. I started with an hour a day for a few weeks and have slowly reduced that to glancing through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for an overview and saving what I want to absolutely look at for the weekend. I’ve given myself extra social media time on the weekend as a treat.
What’s your favorite way to cut down on the amount of information coming at you?
** This post may contain affiliate links **
** This story was written with Airstory. It is an awesome editing and copy writing tool. It makes pulling in data from a variety of sources a breeze. I highly recommend checking them out. I am receiving no compensation from them for this recommendation.
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