If you were like 45% of other Americans, you made at least one New Year’s resolution. It is something ingrained into our brains to set goals at some arbitrarily important date, and New Year’s seems as good a time as any to start anew. But here is one resolution that I would hope to see everyone make this year: go on an information diet.
Now a lot of people go on diets. The number one cited New Year’s resolution diet goal is in fact to lose weight. But the weight I am talking about is the mental baggage of incessant information consumption. Instead of sugary snacks and empty carbs however, we are loading our minds with link-bait articles and lightweight blog posts and brainless viral videos. All of this unfettered access to information and all the ways that we are exposed to this deluge through social media is seriously taxing our resources and changing our brain chemistry.
It is time to make a resolution for an information diet. This is not to say that you go cold turkey and stop browsing the web or social media. We live in a digital age. It is where we work, it is how we stay connected, and it is how we navigate the world. However, we also have to be honest and admit that a lot of what we read, view, and share is the informational equivalent of junk food. We are rotting our minds and cluttering up our thoughts and making distractions which throw us off focus and allow procrastination to walk right in. It is time to get our focus back!
How do you go on an information diet? It all lies in balance. You need some distractions, but have set times throughout the day where you table items to review only during your personal “recess time”. Therefore turn off all the social media feeds and notifications and email pulls outside of things absolutely necessary for work. Do not worry, your Klout score is not going to plummet and your friends will not abandon you. Neither will you miss out on the latest funny meme or lose your chance to fix some wrong on the Internet. Review the blogs, online publications, news sites, determine which ones are really worth reading, and cut out the rest completely (remove feeds, bookmarks, etc). Unsubscribe to all the newsletters and such you never read and simply delete. Limit time in places like Reddit, Hacker News, blog comments, and such outside of what is work related and is purposeful. If it is not related to your broader goals, do not read it or view it, simply skip it.
The challenge with any diet however is getting results and sticking with the program. Unlike most diets focused on nutrition however, this one I think can stick. The mind and body play clever tricks to get you to break your food diet regime and to dampen your progress. Because we are oriented towards quick results, unless the pounds are melting off and your abs are six-pack certified in a week, we quickly lose interest and backslide. The information diet on the other hand simply requires mental discipline. While that is no short effort, at least the withdrawal symptoms will be less painful as the addiction to updates and real time information subsides and you once again value the peace and quiet of the non-Internet. Go information skinny and have a mentally healthier 2013!