In The Information Diet Clay Johnson Discusses How To Waste Less Time Online
Before you start reading this article, set up a little chart. The titles of that chart should say “Facebook,” “Texts,” “Twitter, “Email,” and then whatever other websites you usually have open on your browser. As you read this, make little check marks for every time you glance at one of those other media sources. Add categories if you need to and, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to need to.
I’m making this weird request because in the time it took me to research this article I became conscious of how often I stray from what I’m supposed to be focusing on and into the land of media nonsense consumption. Even as I wrote that sentence my eyes drifted to the top of my browser to see if I had any new notifications on Gmail or Facebook.
Alright, browser minimized, word document full screen. Hopefully now I can focus enough to tell you about a method you can use to break the distraction habit. It’s called The Information Diet and it was invented by a guy named Clay Johnson, who also happens to be the founder of Big Window Labs and Blue State Digital.
Johnson is quick to point out that the name “Information Diet” was a very conscious choice. Most everyone is familiar with the idea of going on a diet to lose weight and what he has essentially come up with in this idea of an information diet is a way for your brain to “lose weight” and become healthier.
Three Major Benefits Of Cutting Information Calories
Johnson gives us a couple quick and (relatively) easy tips to:
Get Started on the Information Diet
The first is to measure what you’re consuming.
Basically, you need to measure your calories. Keep track of what websites you go to, what news you read, what television you watch. Start a document on your computer or check out cool websites like RescueTime.com—an awesome Y Combinator startup from 2008—which allows you to tell it which sites are productive for you and which sites aren’t and then sends you a productivity email at the end of the week.
The next step is to make sure you’re data literate.
That means instead of just reading the same articles telling you the same things about how you’re taking the right steps in getting your startup off the ground, branch out a little bit. Stop focusing on just the analysis and reach into the primary source data. Get to the real thing and form your own opinions so you can converse intelligently and also so you’re exposed to new ideas that may push your startup in a direction you never even imagined.
Finally, exercise your attention.
In The Information Diet Clay Johnson says that “attention is athletic” and endurance needs to be built up the same way we need to build endurance in our bodies. He suggests starting with working for five minutes and then taking a one minute break. Do that for a set amount of time and then shift to ten minutes of working before your break. Gradually increase the intervals between breaks and soon you’ll find yourself able to go for long stretches without any cute cat pictures. Breaks are important to keep your mind active, but you don’t need to check on your 800 notifications twice every minute.
So how does that chart look? I’ve managed to finish this article without once checking Facebook, but I know it’s going to take a lot more work before I’m really utilizing my time. Check out resources.informationdiet.comfor a deeper look into the Information Diet and some more tips on how to get started!