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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Selective Ignorance

How does a member of the media, self-proclaimed online junkie and non-stop Web surfer learn to tune out most of the Internet?

It’s not easy, but I did it, and you can do it, too.

In his best-seller The Four-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss advocates ‘selective ignorance’ and fighting information overload.

When I read the book, I pulled a this-doesn’t-apply-to-me, since, well, I work in the media. I have to be overloaded with information — that’s my job … right?

Wrong. Here’s how I conquered my information overload and learned to love selective ignorance.

Remove Your Distractions

RSS feeds are a great way to get information, but you’ve likely subscribed to way more than you can handle. Stop checking Google Reader every morning — you’re already starting your day off on the wrong foot.

While I love podcasts as much as the next guy, they’re just something else to pay attention to and are likely to distract you from the task at hand. Try music instead. Since I started using Pandora instead of iTunes, I’m doing a lot more in a lot less time.

If you need to communicate by IM or email, don’t make your self available 24/7. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Check your email at specific times during the day (once on the hour is a good place to start) and only hop on IM after you’ve gotten through your most immediate tasks.

Surf Smarter

Online, every story is seemingly about the details. The smallest things — or pretty much anything about the iPhone — are unlikely to affect you.

I know, it’s difficult to admit that. But it’s true. Don’t fret if you don’t know the details — the big picture is what matters.

When you are getting your information, only go to a few sources. Three of my favorites are Techmeme, Drudge Report, and Google News. Each is a great aggregator of what I’m interested in: technology, politics and mainstream news.

When you do surf smarter, do it at specific times of the day or after you complete a specific task. The worst possible thing you could do is open up a new tab while you’re in the middle of something else. You’re asking for trouble.

Let Information Come to You

Don’t be the town crier — there are plenty of other people doing the work. Let them worry about keeping themselves in the know.

Unless you’re actually breaking a news story (which you’ve presumably acquired in a different way), there’s no immediacy to 99.9% of the information online. You don’t need to know everything that’s happening the moment it happens.

You’ll find out what’s going on through your network of contacts. If you want to find out more, then you can go look for it.

Ever since I stopped worrying and learned to love selective ignorance, I’ve mapped out a new project, took on a freelance gig, and found time to play my Wii. It’s all about time — what are you spending yours doing?

For a look at what I’m doing with my newfound time, follow me on Twitter.

One Comment

  1. Good stuff. I also like the Stanley Kubrick reference.

    I am also not a fan of the news and have written an article about the scientific principles behind selective ignorance. Hope you like it: http://krautscience.com/selective-ignorance/

    Greetings from Germany.

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