Drowning in Information Overload

While I was out on paternity leave in early October, I kept feeling overwhelmed. The more I realized how much work I needed to do, the more I felt like my life was spinning out of control. I discussed this with my wife, and she simply explained that by continuing to stay "connected" when I need to be dis-connected, it was impossible to relax. I did my best to simply let go of my work for that week and focus on my family (huh, a novel idea).

Fast forward to the end of October and early November, and I read this post by CGP Grey on "dialing down". A light bulb went off in my head. I had let lots of inputs into my life that weren't helping me accomplish my goals. As a result of The Focus Course, I had deduced that my goals/priorities are:

  1. Spiritual life (study of the Bible, praying, cherishing the love of Christ)
  2. Family
  3. Friends (with a focus on longer term friendships rather than a host of acquaintances)
  4. Making money/doing great work

After spending some time analyzing my life, how I spend my time, and how I let things into my brain, I knew I needed to make a few changes. I decided to do these as a test in November:

All social media is removed from mobile devices

Tweetbot was deleted from my iPhone. I blocked Twitter.com using 1Blocker. I can still access it, but it takes multiple steps. This has eliminated a lot of wasted brain space goofing off on Twitter. I also realized that while Twitter is awesome, it's also terrible. It 140 characters of individual thoughts/ideas that I have to continually process. A lot of people are terribly negative during the US presidential election season (it basically lasts two years). Twitter is essential to many of the projects I work on, so I don't want to leave it completely. I do want to reduce the amount of time and energy I give it, though. I've relegated it only to my Mac. I might engage a few times a day to catch up on news, etc, but it's taking up zero brain power outside of that. I no longer feel like I am missing anything.

Instagram is also on pause. While I have logged in a few times to share some photos (I don't have Facebook, so this is how I share kid photos with close friends/family), I delete it immediately after. If I share a picture, I'll give myself a few minutes to browse my feed, though. With it requiring me to download the app each time I want to browse it, I have largely reduced the amount of time I spend on it.

All of this is aimed at helping free up RAM in my brain to focus on what I want to focus on and eliminate various amounts of negativity. Like I said, I am not jumping off the Twitter train, but only engaging there in a window of time each day/week. I've also realized that I can get 90% as much enjoyment/benefit from social media with about 20% of the effort I was previously giving it.

TV Shows

This is a simple section, but I am limiting the amount of TV I watch in a given week. While TV is fun, large amounts of time in front of it are a huge waste of time. My wife and I watch a few shows together, but I don't watch it otherwise. If you spend two hours a day watching it, you are spending 14 hours per week total. The only exception to this is during football season, which is very much a social activity for me.

Audiobooks and Podcasts

I've loved spoken word content for a large portion of my adult life. I've been listening to podcasts for over a decade. While I think they can be awesome and provide the ability to learn new things all the time, I've realized this isn't always a good thing. Sometimes, I need to learn less and give myself opportunities to explore the thoughts in my own head. I've canceled my Audible subscription, and cut the podcasts I listen to down from fifteen to three. Eliminating the content is a way to give my brain opportunities for other things.

Music

Music is something I've never really loved. I always viewed it as background noise for when I drive. Over the past few months, I've discovered that music should not always be enjoyed as a passive activity. Music, in a lot of situations, should be listened to with as much attention as a movie or TV shows. Spending more amount of time actively listening to music has been good for me. Music is art. To enjoy it better, I've also cleaned up my iTunes library to just include artists that I love. I looked through each album and asked myself if I ever planned on listening to this again. Overall, I'm quite happy with the increase in music listening in my life. Spending an hour listening to music leaves my brain in a drastically different state than an hour of TV watching does.

Day One

I'm making an effort to write daily in Day One. This has been good for making note of whatever I am feeling that day. It might be about my kids, my work, or my friends.

End Result

The goal of all of this is to reduce the amount of time I spend doing things that aren't related to my four priorities listed above (exercise is something I didn't mention, but has been a consistent priority in my life for sixteen years). As of the 21st of November when I am writing this, I do not see myself going back on any of these changes. I feel more in control of my time, my emotions, and my thoughts. I've given myself more time to be bored and to sit alone with my thoughts. I feel more productive at work, at home, and in all other aspects of my life. I've not completely disconnected, but I'm reducing the amount of time I am connected.