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Embracing the Low Information Diet and Focusing on Work

News update

We live in a world of information abundance.

Turn on the TV and you’ll find news stations streaming constant updates and live coverage of “important” events happening right now that you need to know about.

Open your email and you’ll see newsletters and updates from websites you’ve subscribed to, bills and reminders from your accounts, and a handful of real emails from real people you may or may not care about.

It can be overwhelming.

In an effort to stay informed and up-to-date, we find ourselves bombarded with hundreds if not thousands of concentration-breaking pieces of information (often labeled as “updates”) every day.

And that’s before the barrage of texts, calls, notifications and alerts that many of us are subject to.

Personally, I like to think that I’m good at multitasking – tweeting the latest blog post while wrapping up a call and figuring out when to schedule a meeting – but research shows that “being a good multitasker” is largely a myth.

Hi-tech media jugglers (people who multitask with different streams of electronic data like email and websites) actually damage their brainsaccording to a 2009 Stanford study.

That doesn’t sound good.

Now granted, not all of those distractions are unwanted.

Just yesterday, I saw a news headline about an explosion near my family’s house in Seattle. (Everyone was OK.)

THAT is relevant to me. THAT is something I want to know about.

But then it was over.

And then the news went back to politicians throwing insults and calling each other names.

Snooze…

There are other ways of staying up-to-date of course.

What about being an informed citizen by proactively seeking out information so you can understand complex issues and current events?

Isn’t it worth understanding the politics of the presidential hopefuls in the U.S.?

What about the Zika virus, which appears to be spreading around Latin America?

There’s a great number of current events that affect real lives right now, but they might not affect yours.

Or at least not directly.

Do you become an expert on those topics?

Or just learn enough so you won’t be left silent when it comes up in conversation?

As a wantrepreneur, I propose that you adopt a Low Information Diet lifestyle and forget news altogether.

Turn off the TV. Unsubscribe from newsletters. Get to work.

There’s only 24 hours in a day. And for 8 of them (or maybe a little less), you’re not able to take in any new information.

Consider the last handful of news updates you encountered.

Did they radically change your life?

Did they significantly impact the way you make decisions?

My guess is no.

Mainstream news updates are designed to capture attention, so it’s easy to get caught up in a flurry of videos or articles, but most of these updates – while infolicious and juicy – won’t change your life.

Working on your business will.

Your mission is to start a business, remember?

Since joining the Boston startup community over 4 years ago, I’ve subsisted on getting most news updates from friends and family. They act as my “news filter.”

Anything that’s really worth knowing is worth sharing, so I’m bound to hear important news eventually.

Every now and then something comes up in conversation that I haven’t heard about yet, and yeah it was awkward the first couple times, but I’ve since embraced my identity as a work-focused wantrepreneur and I own it.

If you’re really focused on building a business people will understand why you’re on a low information diet.

Optimizing my schedule to increase my productivity, I limit my information consumption mostly to books, blogs, and podcasts.

When I get an email update from QuickSprout, I usually read it.

When I see a new podcast from Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income blog, I usually listen to it.

The past few books I’ve read include:

  • The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
  • The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau, and
  • Will it Fly? by Pat Flynn

All of which were selected to help me work through specific challenges I was facing as a wantrepreneur.

Thanks to my low information diet I have a lot more time on my hands.

Time that can be dedicated to work.

This might be appalling to some people – I know my parents would take issue with this for example – but if you’re serious about starting a business then you need to focus and take action.

Try it for a month.

30 days without news, without all your regular subscription updates, etc.

Just see if you can do it. See what impact it has on your life.

And if you decide you need at least some news, check out Tim Ferriss’s tips for staying informed in half the time.

I’m willing to bet that after 30 days you’ll keep going.

Do you follow mainstream news?

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