Imagine a sweets freak abstaining from a sugar fix, prohibited from even eating fruit until balance was restored in his or her body. Imagine the initial cravings, the edginess, and the withdrawal symptoms.
Now imagine all the information coming at you every minute of the day. Just like the sweets freak’s experience, it could be equally difficult to take a break from information overload.
As a culture, we’ve grown accustomed to consuming vast quantities of facts, figures and current events.
Just think of the sources of information we mainline every day: newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, books, blogs, websites, e-mail, social media sites, podcasts, RSS feeds, discussion lists, reports, white papers, tele-classes, conferences, workshops, presentations. The list goes exhaustingly on.
We are stuffing our minds and, like the sugar hound, we think we like it. They’re interesting, all these things we learn, the world events we follow.
But what do we miss when there is almost no time that we are quiet with our own thoughts and self-generated activities? How much better could we focus on our tasks at hand, working faster and more productively, and how would that add to our lives? What might we discover that is more important than the mountain of information we take in every day?
The steps below can help you create more balance around information.
Begin with a full fast, and then add things back in a strategic way, taking care to add only what truly serves you.
Make a list
Write down every source of information that comes to you automatically or that you voluntarily tune into. Refer to the partial list of info sources above to jog your awareness, and don’t forget the cute e-mail “forwards” that family members send you.
Turn it off
Turn off the morning talk show as you dress for work and the radio while you commute. Take a pass on the evening news or your favourite interview show. Switch the podcast from productivity programs to rock and roll music.
Unsubscribe (except from my e-blast, of course!)
Be ruthless. If, after a week or month, you still miss e-mails from a particular person or organization, you can always re-subscribe. Get on no-call and no-direct-mail lists.
Make another list
This time, list all the things you love to do, especially those you say you never have time for. Keep this list visible. When you free up time and mental space, you’ll be more able to pursue your interests and hobbies.
A complete information fast need only last a week or two, but the balance it restores will last a lot longer.
To get through the initial “withdrawal” just keep focusing on what you want in the bigger picture of your life. You’ll be so much happier when you make time for it.