The Low-Information Diet

Once upon a time, like last month, I was always checking in on some type of screen. Whether it was on my computer or on my iPhone, I would regularly check Twitter every minute and my e-mail and facebook every five minutes. The reason people do this, I believe, is everything from feeling important to creating a false sense of “busyness”.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when people were trying to have Twitter arguments with me. Yeah, you read right. Arguments. Via Twitter. It’s as lame as it sounds.

I soon realized that a lot, and by a lot I mean most, of my energy and focus was being sucked away with all these social networking sites. And for the sake of this post, I will also refer to e-mail as a social network site. If you think about it, it was the original social networking site. Remember those massive, multi-response e-mail’s we use to have? Those have since moved to facebook but e-mail is still the personal, one-on-one distractor.

As I’m learning about the whole, less-is-more approach, I go up to Northern Arizona for a week to volunteer at a summer camp for children with Hemophilia and H.I.V. It had been nearly 5 years since I had volunteered at this amazing camp. I owe so much of my life to this camp. Almost all my friends are somehow related to it. So one would think that the one thing I was looking forward to was reconnecting with old friends. That was actually the second. The first? Disconnecting from all the world’s interruptions.

This also came at a time when I was just starting a new organization who’s first major event was in less than two weeks! You may not believe this, but I promise, after reading Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek, I knew – heck, I was confident – that I could knock this out. Even though I knew I would be spending one of those two weeks away, I’d be fine. Reason’s being, a) I’d have time at night to quickly peak into my e-mail should an emergency arise – it didn’t, because they rarely do – and b) if something did come up, it’s all good. I’ll just batch those up and deal with it when I get back into the city.

So how did my event go with me gone half the time? As you can see here, we had over 200 happy fans.

I came home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. And more importantly, more motivated to disconnect and take back control from life’s interruptions. Here’s a few things I did.

  • Pushed “off” on push notifications. My phone was constantly alerting me about new e-mail, new requests on facebook, new e-mail, replies on Twitter, new e-mail, phone calls followed by a voice mail followed by… an e-mail. Turning off push notifications, especially my e-mail, has brought a quite to my mind I had forgot existed.
  • Cancelled all my e-mail subscription’s. This one was hard. I was enrolled to receive updates from newsletter’s, discounts, you name it. The week away at camp really displayed to me what was and wasn’t important. I hit delete without opening on about 95%. I had to tell myself, “It’s O.K., I can always re-enroll and these newsletters are always filed away.” The discounts, those were easy. I’m giving myself bargains on things I don’t want. If I don’t want it, I don’t care how cheap it is. My exception is Groupon! Those deals are insane. But besides that, if I need something, then I get it.
  • Cut down e-mail, facebook and Twitter to about five times a day. Total. I think that’s still a lot but it’s hard to come off the crack. It is a vast improvement of checking Twitter in the middle of the night and while on the toilet though! Soon I hope to be able to “check-in” only twice a day.
  • Got rid of voicemail. This was easier than it sounds. I have a Google account. On Google Voice all you do is have the voicmail’s e-mailed to you. I don’t even get an alert that I have a voicemail on my phone anymore. Sweet! It’s sent to me via text. I can read the transcription on my phone or e-mail. If I want to I can still listen to them, but I rarely do that now.
  • It’s not just “in” formation, but also “out” formation. Sendible.com has saved me. You can schedule when you want to send e-mail’s, tweets, posts and even SMS. As I write this, I have three in queue. One e-mail is from someone who told me to remind them about a meeting in two weeks. Two weeks ago I wrote the e-mail and there it sits, ready to go out Monday. Another one is a text. I need to ask someone to return something to me but I want to ask her Sunday afternoon. No prob, she’s getting a text tomorrow while I’m at church.

And just like that, life’s noise and interruptions have been all but cut off. Being on call or on edge is now a thing of the past. Now my mind is only occupied with the here and now. My free time is exactly that now. Free.

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