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An Overwhelming World
Information overwhelm is one of our most significant challenges in this digital age. We are bombarded from the moment we wake up until the second we fall to sleep.
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I’m still learning to tame the beast myself, and it’s a daunting task.
I’m confessing right here and now that I need as much help as you do. I get it. Not do you have all the information you need for your job, there’s also the sheer amount you need to know to navigate daily living. In addition, there is a constant bombardment of factoids, stories, blog posts, news, statistics and other data coming from every direction. It’s a lot to keep up with!
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The Four Hour Work Week
I first saw the idea for an information “diet” in Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Work Week”. In it, he shows the methods he used to streamline the amount of information coming to him.
It’s an awesome theory, it’s brilliant. He has cut out reading or listening to the news altogether, 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. All through the book, there are methods and actionable steps that can be taken to hone the information coming into the necessary minimum allowing more focus for the things that matter.
I do love the theory, but the idea of cutting down on reading hurts my book lover’s heart.
Most of us cannot live in an information vacuum. However, there are things we can do to tone down our intake. Tim Ferris has proven that in his own life.
Just like being selective with calories, we also need to be selective about the information we consume.
Easy, Actionable Steps We Can Take to Tame The Beast
I did like Tim’s handling of the news … he stopped consuming it entirely. I know most of us can’t entirely do this, but the fantasy of it is intriguing.
Local, Country and World news media are not only massive in volume, they are 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 other problems I’m not even going to go into.
See how the same stories show up on different outlet for two or three different days. The ones that repeat the most tend to be the most upsetting and disturbing. They are incendiary and often slanted. Designed to trigger our outrage and fear. There is something constantly hit our nerves and destroying our peace.
This is one area that I have managed to almost completely eliminate. The news media is slanted and so much is taken out of context. We’re presented with problems but not their solutions. If there’s anything important going on in the world, I still hear about it without having it shoved in my face every day.
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? 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 or anticipation when you see them in your inbox? If the answer is no, unsubscribe.
I get the irony, I write a blog. Attracting subscribers is part of the business. I love and appreciate all of mine. So adding to the irony, please subscribe for some peace and entertainment in your inbox.
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Turn your spam filter up to high and only whitelist email addresses that give you the information you want or need. I’ve found that this is a great way to catch nasty spam before it goes into your inbox. I blacklist undesirable domains that send multiple messages every day. Bulk delete or report spam emails once a week.
Another thing Tim Ferriss that recommends in The Four Hour Work Week is 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 by 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 or something upsetting or irritating.
I was conveniently laid off which reduced my email load significantly. Read more here: So You’ve Been Laid Off, Now What?
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 three of the art magazines. If you collect magazines but don’t read them, drop them in your doctor’s office, beauty salon, or anywhere else you may tend to sit for a long time. Media donation is a really good thing.
Well … yeah … Let’s talk about books. I don’t have much that’s useful to contribute to this category because my to-read pile is so big it has its own bookcase. That doesn’t include my massage, horoscope, blogging, writing, cooking, and reiki reference books.
Cull through your books, as difficult as that may be and put aside books for donation to Goodwill, your Public Library, hospital, or even your local prison system. You could also take them to a used bookstore for credit.
If you want to make a few extra dollars, set up an eBay store, sell them on Amazon with a Bookseller’s Account, or get an AbeBooks or an Alibris account.
To further reduce your pile of books, sign up for a library card and check out books or get them online and download to your Nook or Kindle.
I guess I don’t consider these a “bombardment” because there’s 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, you know uplifting things. But for some reason that spirals downhill into “guilty pleasures'” like theories on my favorite TV shows, following the British Royal Family, Guy Tang (a hair colorist who’s known for his huge personality as well as his skill) and other channels that are pure fun.
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; business information; random and many websites that I find interesting; all the knowledge 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.
Again, pick and choose, be greedy with your time. Go through your hundreds of bookmarks and keep the ones you visit the most and give you the most value.
The internet is really the last frontier. It’s the collective brainchild 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 wander outside, look at some flowers and take a deep breath.
Social media has connected the world and made it a more interesting place and has maybe also 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. Do you need all the platforms you’re on? Do you really need to be spending hours a day scrolling through your feeds and liking everything and everyone?
Take one platform at a time and clean out the people that you’re no longer interested in following, the ones that spout negativity all day long, and delete the accounts that no longer have any activity coming from them.
Evaluate your RSS feeds also. Are you constantly being interrupted with messages from the feed? Stop your notifications and unsubscribe from those that you no longer find interesting.
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 but it doesn’t have to take hours out of my day to still be effective.
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 Living Well Spending Less Planner is a great tool to tame overwhelm and I’ve recently started using Trello along with it to organize the steps I’m taking to my goals each quarter.
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? Leave your methods in the comment section below!
Say ‘To Tech with IT’ and go out and tame your Information Monster!
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** This story was written with Airstory. It is an awesome editing and copywriting tool. It makes pulling in data from a variety of sources a breeze. I highly recommend checking it out. I am receiving no compensation from them for this recommendation.
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Love this post..very thoughtful and spot on..after entering the blogging journey I find myself on the computer as much as my children are on their phones. it can be a beast. I find now I do things in the morning take a long break and get back into it late afternoon or early evening but then i don’t want to be just using social media i want to write and that seems to be a better use of time. I was an avid reader of books until last April when I started to blog now i read posts,articles, watch tutorials and so on..Can’t wait to pickup a book again..
Hi Carrie! I know what you mean about missing books! I’m trying to take an hour or so in the evening before bed and read for pleasure because I’m reading technical stuff all day but sometimes I can’t face looking at another single word. I work in the computer field along with my blogging. So I’m getting double hits on computer time. 🙂