The more technologically advanced society becomes, the harder it becomes to find silence on a daily basis. Simply put, information has become more widespread and more readily available than ever before. With the rapid development of smartphones and the pervasiveness of the internet we have more information available to us at our fingertips than ever previously seen in human history. All this information can have some pretty nasty side effects.
The information we encounter on a daily basis comes in a myriad of forms:
- Facebook viral videos
- Twitter feeds, Quora Trending Topics, Reddit Posts, Instagram non-stop photo updates, Snapchat Stories
- 24-hour news networks
- 24-hour sports networks
- magazine subscription services
The list goes on and on.
Information by itself isn’t inherently bad, but the problem is that almost all information we come in contact with on a daily basis does not add value to our lives in any way. Most news articles we read, social media updates we check, and TV shows we watch are actually just forms of entertainment we use to pass the time.
But there is an even larger problem looming here:
Constantly being bombarded by unimportant information steals our time and energy away from doing work that actually matters.
Let me explain.
Scrolling through your Twitter feed for 45 seconds when you wake up at 8 AM won’t destroy your productivity for the whole day.
But checking it again at 9:30, 9:45, 10:03, 10:17, 11:12, 12:30, 1:01, 1:50, 3:20, 5:45, 7:35, and 9:00 actually will destroy your productivity. This is because it takes you away from whatever you’re working on for just enough time that it can knock you out of your “flow” state. It also forces your mind to reset and take time to remember what you were focusing on before you checked social media.
Find Time to Flex Your Creative Muscles
To be able to sit, think deeply, and produce meaningful work we must be able to set aside uninterrupted time for our brain to be creative. We can’t do deep work if we’re constantly keeping tabs on our social media accounts and the news and reality TV shows throughout the day.
Our brain needs space to breath and escape the continuous bombardment of noise.
Nonstop consumption of irrelevant information impedes on our ability to find time to ourselves and flex our creative muscles.
As humans we naturally only have a certain amount of willpower that we can tap into each day. We can train ourselves to tap into this willpower more effectively on a daily basis, but to do this we must elect to give ourselves space instead of stuff our faces with pointless information and news.
The more unnecessary information we take in on a daily basis, the less energy and time we have to flex our creative muscles and do work that matters. We all are capable of writing, drawing, creating, producing, communicating, building and whatever else we enjoy doing that brings value to the world in some way.
But it’s very difficult to do these things when all of our energy is slowly being soaked up by the unimportant information energy sponge.
Learning to Filter the Noise
One of the easiest ways to know if something is bringing value to your life or not is to simply live without it for an extended period of time.
If you attempt to go without water for more than about a week you will die. That’s a fairly strong indication that water brings a tremendous amount of value to your life.
Likewise, if you attempt to live a life of complete solitude, devoid of all human contact you will experience unfavorable side effects like depression and severe loneliness after a certain period of time. That’s another good indication that strong social relationships add a huge amount of value to your life.
But then consider living without an app like Instagram for a while. Eventually, as time goes on you’ll become accustomed to not having Instagram and you’ll lose the urge to constantly check your account and you’ll ultimately learn to live without it. You’ll also notice that your overall well-being and happiness won’t decrease over time. This is because Instagram isn’t actually bringing a significant amount of value to your life.
You’ll find out very quickly whether or not something is enhancing your life by removing that “something” for an extended period of time and observing how your life changes.
Helpful Ways to Filter the Noise
Filtering out the incessant noise we face each day is easier said than done. Some practical steps I’ve taken in my own life to filter the noise have been:
I started meditating this past summer and I have seen a noticeable difference in my ability to be more “in the moment” each day and think more clearly. I meditate for 15-25 minutes each morning.
I’m breaking the rule here because I’m actually bringing more information into my life in the form of podcasts. But the difference here is that podcasts are packed with useful, life-improving content that I can listen to easily on my way to and from work in the mornings. This is one form of information I actually recommend bringing into your life.
Deleting Social Media Apps
I recently removed all social media apps from my phone. I still have the actual social media accounts, but now if I want to access them I have to get on the internet, go to the site, and log in each time. This slight inconvenience has actually drastically reduced my social media usage since it’s more of a tedious process than just tapping the app on my phone screen. This is a nice way to reduce time spent on social media but still have access to it when need be.
The last technique I use to reduce unnecessary information overload is to make the conscious choice to do nothing when faced with free time and the opportunity to sit back and watch TV or Netflix. I literally choose to just lay in bed or sit on my back porch and just enjoy being in the moment with my thoughts.
I have found this to be a surprisingly relaxing, stress-free way of reducing information intake in my life. An added benefit of this is that I often come up with new blog ideas or project ideas during this time of sitting and doing nothing.
To recap the main ideas here:
1. There is more pointless information yelling at us than ever before.
2. This is BAD because it kills our ability to concentrate, which we need in order to do deep, meaningful work.
3. To identify what is important vs. unimportant, see what you can live without for an extended period of time without any adverse effects.
4. Simple tricks like meditation, podcasts, deleting social media apps, and simply choosing to do nothing are easy ways to reduce information intake.
Feature photo credit: bear
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