Information Cleanse


I have a number of ways that I put things off, but the main way is reading my news feeds.

So, I just unsubscribed from all 18 of them.

Most of the time, I did not even know that I was putting anything off. It just became a habit to get home, spend time with the family, and when free time came up, open up the laptop and pull up Google Reader. I could have chosen to do something productive when the free time came up. But, out of habit, I went to the news feed.

Reading the news (especially the kind that is customized to your interests) is a very difficult addiction to break. Keeping up to date on the latest happenings seems like a productive thing to do. Everyday I found out information that could have influenced the path I chose to take on projects at home or work. There were a ton of articles that I read that dove deep into technical subjects, listed out anti-akrasia techniques, analyzed world events, reviewed movies, linked to random, hilarious pictures, or consumed my time in any number of other interesting ways.

I have spoken about anti-akrasia methods, twice before. Those techniques are interesting but I failed to incorporate them into any kind of habit. I was unable to do those things habitually because I was already in the habit of reading the news. My time was already filled with a lot of meaningful things that I needed to do. When I got a spare moment, I chose to “relax” by reading the news, instead of attempting to start an anti-akrasia habit.

Now, it is time for an information cleanse. Mr. Babauta of the Zen Habits blog has come out with a new book called focus, which you can download for free. In the book, he has a section entitled, “clear distractions”. He asks you to go a half a day, a day, or maybe even 2-3 days without consuming information from electronic devices. After that, slowly add the important streams back into your life.

I may not follow his advice exactly, but reading his call for an information cleanse happened at the right time in my life. I could have just not clicked the Reader link when I had free time. But I knew that it would be too easy to cheat if all that information was just one click away. So, I decided to unsubscribe from the RSS feeds. This way, I would have to actively search for the link to a website’s RSS feed, add it to Google Reader and then click on that Reader link to start procrastinating.

In the 24 hours that I have been information cleansed, I have noticed that I logged into Facebook a few times and clicked on the Google News link once. I rarely did either of those things when I had my RSS feeds.

The habit is hard to break. I will admit that. But going cold turkey is the only way for me to go. Hopefully, I will see the results that I want. Inevitably, the news will come back into my life. And it should, I do not think being completely disconnected from the rest of the world is a good thing. However, I hope that I will be more in control of how often I retrieve that information.

I also hope that I will, now, have the opportunity to finish off those tasks that I have been putting off. One of which is tracking the time that I spend being productive vs. slacking off. I believe that if I can visualize the amount of time I spend putting things off vs. the amount of time I spend actually doing them, I will have a better understanding of my life and a better chance of accomplishing my goals.

Photo courtesy of DRB62 

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