Today, putting technical stuff a bit away for a while, I’d like to share with you some personal experience about Low-Information Diet. This topic concerns productivity and lifestyle, it can be said, so don’t expect any technical stuff here 🙂
But don’t worry, we’ll go back to programming soon!
If you haven’t read my post about productivity tips yet, I encourage you to do it now. I shared there some habits I practice in my everyday life to make it better and more efficient.
Today we’ll shed some light upon a bit related topic, which is about freeing your mind from unnecessary information consumption.
First of all, we should start by defining what it means to consume information. Let’s start by defining from where the information can reach our minds:
- general news websites
- specialized websites, e.g. this blog or any other specialized website/blog
- social media
- physical adverts, e.g. billboards
- video/text tutorials/courses
- face-to-face conversations with people
- public speaking sessions/lectures
- … and many more.
Consuming information means to spend time exploring (watching, reading, listening to) these information sources.
There’s however a very important feature of each of these media – their persuasion character. Information sources can be general (out of consumer’s control) or specialized (fully or partially controlled/chosen by the consumer).
Let’s then try to divide above-mentioned sources into general and specialized ones:
|TV||specialized websites (e.g. blogs)|
|general news websites||books|
|face-to-face conversations with people|
|public speaking sessions/lectures|
I intentionally made general ones red and specialized ones green. Why?
Because general media is what’s out of our control and influence – we cannot choose what we see on the TV (except of switching the channel, which doesn’t help much) or read on some general news websites. These sources are designed by someone else to persuade us to take exact actions (vote for a given political party, buy a given product etc.). General information sources should be generally avoided (more details later).
On the other hand, specialized resources are the ones directed to someone interested in a particular field, which makes such information possible to be selected by the consumer (not imposed). Of course there might be some exceptions from this rule, but this is a general observation I have. Specialized information sources should be consciously consumed (more details later).
What about social media?
In the table above you can see that I classified social media as half-general and half-specialized knowledge source. That’s because social media are generally also to persuade us to do something. We’re not customers of social media platforms like Facebook – their customers are advertisers who pay for displaying ads for well-targeted group of people.
On the other hand, there are some medias which can be – at least partially – controlled and made specialized by us. Good example is Twitter, on which the feed is not an infinite one and the order of tweets is always the same – in opposite to Facebook, which is on purpose designed to display an infinite feed loop. Have you noticed that every time you refresh your Facebook feed the order of posts you see is different? That’s how Facebook wants you to scroll and refresh it infinitely. You refresh the feed in hope some interesting post appears. This is out of your control.
On Twitter, the tweets you see are always in the same order (sorted by publication time). What’s maybe even more important you can easily unfollow the people you are not interested in and you’ll not see their tweets/retweets anymore. This way, Twitter is more specialized medium.
I won’t tell you to stop using social media – of course you should use it, but do it wisely. Try to be as selective as possible, unlike the FB pages you’re not really interested in, unfollow people you don’t see any value in for yourself.
Low-Information Diet (LID)
So what is this Low-Information Diet (LID)? How can it help to free our minds? 🙂
This idea is presented by Tim Ferris in his awesome book The 4-Hour Workweek. When I read the chapter about Low-Information Diet 3 months ago it really changed my life.
The general idea is to consume as less information as possible. If you actually consume something, it should be as specialized and adjusted to your interests and possible. Everything you consume should bring the real value to yourself.
As I already mentioned in my post about productivity tips, everything you have in your mind or you have to do makes you constantly thinking about it (even if you don’t realize it). Your brain processes the information “in the background” – sometimes it’s enough to write things down to release your head from thinking about them. Now try to wonder how consuming tons of information from general news websites or other irrelevant sources litters your brain!
My implementation of LID
When I implemented the Low-Information Diet 90 days ago, I defined the following rules:
Rule 1: I don’t watch TV at all
This wasn’t very complicated, because we haven’t got TV with my girlfriend in our flat for 6 years already and I’m crazily happy about that 🙂
Instead, I choose series on Netflix that interest me and watch them sometimes for an hour in the evenings for relaxation.
Rule 2: I don’t read any political or general news
I don’t read any news. Simple as that. I just don’t ever open any news websites.
Exception: as soon as I wanna know more about some specific topic, then I read – but only concrete articles focused on this particular topic and only on defined times of a week/day for specified time period (e.g. on Friday evening for 10 minutes).
Rule 3: I keep my social media clean, ignoring irrelevant
First of all, I reviewed all Facebook pages I “liked” and “unliked” all that I didn’t find any value in.
Then I did the same with people I followed on Twitter.
I repeat such review from time to time.
The question I ask myself reviewing each page/person is: “Has any of this page’s/person’s posts really brought me any value during the previous month?” If the answer is “No” – I unfollow.
Rule 4: I don’t use push notifications on my mobile phone
I disabled all push notifications (Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Instagram) on my Android phone. The only notifications I now receive are direct messages (SMS/WhatsApp/phone calls) and reminders from Nozbe (more on Nozbe here). Nothing more.
Instead, I check my social media and email twice per day on pre-defined hours (I put two 30-minutes events in my Google Calendar at noon and 4PM for that, but yours can be shorter or longer depending on your needs).
It’s also critical to never check emails/social media just after you wake up. This is truly unleashing. Never start a day with littering your head.
Wait… so you’re totally outdated!
Now you can wonder, how the hell can I live in today’s world? How can I consider myself an up-to-date person? How can I not be updated on everything what happens in the world being part of IT industry?
Well, that’s simple. I’m still up-to-date 🙂 How do I achieve that? Let’s see:
- Instead of reading/watching news, I talk to people (at work or home) – as soon as something interesting or important happens in the world I got to know about it from them. Talking with people who read a lot of news from various sources and hearing their opinions, e.g. on election candidates can even help me to choose a person to vote on. If they’ve already spent dozens of hours on research, why to reinvent the wheel? 😉
- When I hear about some topic and want to dig into it – then I look for some articles/news, but focused exactly on the topic which interests me. This way, I maximize usage of my valuable time 🙂
- As soon as I meet someone interesting (e.g. speaker on a conference), I follow such person on Twitter. Then I explore Twitter twice per day and see only posts relevant to my interests. That’s a very good way to stay up-to-date with industry latest trends, new technologies etc.
- When there’s some important event happening somewhere (examples: conference I’m interested in, Himalayan mountaineers rescue action I’d like to follow) I watch hashtags on Twitter. This is crazily specific and the information gets to me unbelievably fast. This is 1000000 times better that waiting for a news to be published on websites like BBC/CNN. What’s more, Twitter provides more realistic information, in most cases published by people who are on-site when something happens, so it’s not poisoned or already influenced by public media.
It’s all about selective ignorance
So you see, this is all about selective ignorance. You can read many psychological articles on the Internet, for example here, but taking into consideration what we covered in this post we can define it as:
- Filtering out all irrelevant information, which doesn’t bring real value to yourself
- Accepting the fact that we don’t need to know everything
- Letting other people find or “transfer” information to us (like discussing about election candidates without prior research)
- Accepting to stop consuming if something turns out to be irrelevant, e.g. stopping reading an article/blog post in the middle of it if it turns out to not be interesting (don’t be afraid of it!)
- Releasing your brain from thinking “in the background” – don’t think that you need to check your email now, because some important email can wait there. Don’t open Facebook, because some world-breaking post may have just been published there. The simplest way to achieve that is to define time-frames in your calendar for exploring your socials/emails – your brain then knows why you don’t check it right away – because you’ve already scheduled checking it for later.
Summary and… CHALLENGE!
As you can see, Low-Information Diet is not that hard to implement in your life. There are just a few habits/routines you need to introduce. But believe me – it’s truly unleashing! You’ll be the same up-to-date as previously, or maybe even more and with relevant data! You’ll probably also talk more with people around you 🙂
1-week Low-Information Diet CHALLENGE:
I’d like you to, starting today, for the next 7 days go on an information rehab:
- no TV
- no news
- social media once per day for 30 minutes (set calendar event!)
- emails twice per day (set calendar event!)
- no push notifications on the mobile phone
After these 7 days, come back here and share your thoughts in the comments 🙂 We’ll see how it works for you!
“Instead of reading/watching news, I talk to people (at work or home) – as soon as something interesting or important happens in the world I got to know about it from them.”
This strategy doesn’t work if everyone were to follow your “low information diet” strategy, because no one would be reading the news. So clearly there is a need for an “outsider person” who does not follow this diet for this diet to work in the first place, which I find interesting. What makes a person suited or unsuited for the diet?
“What’s more, Twitter provides more realistic information, in most cases published by people who are on-site when something happens, so it’s not poisoned or already influenced by public media.”
I wouldn’t count on this. I think it’s a mistake to assume that this will continue to happen as-is. There is a lot of incentive for the “public media” to push back against this, and they have, in some ways. Eventually you may find yourself coming to trust a Twitter account, only to later find out that they were actually being paid off by the BBC for years, just for example.
thanks for your insights.
“What makes a person suited or unsuited for the diet?”
I think it’s mostly the environment in which a person operates. There are thousands of people who are simply interested in politics, news in general and they enjoy reading multiple news websites even to get various points of view. I don’t, so I don’t spend time on it. Everyone would probably have different “diet” depending on situation and point of view. I guess everyone is suited for such low-information diet, but defined differently and with different rules (everyone probably could spend his/her time more efficiently).
Regarding Twitter – maybe it will (or is already) becoming “poisoned”, but what I meant is that following hashtags on Twitter you can quickly see a lot of opinions (tweets have characters limit) so you can much quicker get a lot of different points of view. So even if some tweets are paid by TV/newspapers, you’re able to quicker filter it out and form your own opinion on a particular topic.
> The question I ask myself reviewing each page/person is: “Has any of this page’s/person’s posts really brought me any value during the previous month?” If the answer is “No” – I unfollow.
I use a slightly different criteria – whether value I get (valuable for me) from following this person is greater than amount of irrelevant (for me of course) stuff produced by the same person.
thanks for sharing this criteria, it’s also a good approach 🙂