We live in a unique period in human history. Modern times are a maze for our (albeit highly evolved) ape brains to navigate.
Our number one issue is that we have too much information at our fingertips. Our ancestors would have dreamed of having all the information we possess. The amount of information is not the only issue. The way we are consume it is also completely wrong. We mainly consume it from a supercomputer that fits into our palms. We keep it in our pockets and check it every 5 minutes.
The main issue in solving information overload is using technology intelligently.
Your smartphone will (figuratively) kill you. You need to use your smartphone correctly or downgrade to a dumb phone. The dumb phone will allow you to make calls and texts, and everything else you use your phone for can be done on your laptop. Most people won’t be willing to get rid of their smartphones.
If you don’t want to get rid of it, you need to simplify it. The first step is to cover the screen with a wrap-around magnetic case (Amazon). This prevents notifications from lighting up your screen. I know what you might be thinking, “that’s dumb, why can’t I just lie my phone face down.” Having a case that covers the screen is better, you don’t always want to lie your phone face down.
The next step is to delete all the social media apps. These tend to be the most distracting apps people have on their phone. They post pictures/tweets and repeatedly check their likes. This temptation is far too great to check this when you have social media on your phone. It is a waste of your limited willpower to try to resist this urge. The simple solution is to schedule time to check your social media on your computer.
Most of the rest of your apps should be deleted as well. This includes things such as online shopping apps, online banking, games, etc. Your transit apps (Google Maps, Uber, Lyft, public transit schedule) are fine. These are not entertainment and can help you travel more efficiently.
Alarm Clock > Phone Alarm
The next step may seem like overkill to some people, but it’s life-changing. Don’t use the alarm on your phone. The issue with using your alarm on your phone is the first thing in your mind in the morning is your smartphone. The alarm is waking you up, and this ensures the first thing you hear and touch in the morning is your smartphone.
This is the worst way to start your day if you want to be productive.
You start your day with negative emotions from the alarm disturbing your sleep, then you walk over and shut the alarm off and start checking your notifications. The simplest solution is to get an analog alarm clock (Amazon). This allows you to wake up and be productive in the morning and build momentum toward achieving your goals.
Of course, don’t sleep with your phone next to you in bed. This doesn’t need to be explained.
Social media is terrible for both productivity and mental health. You should either delete it or minimize usage. On Facebook and LinkedIn you can go into peoples profiles and unfollow them. This takes time, but it’s a one time thing, and the peace of mind is worth it. You will still remain friends with them, but their posts and pictures will no longer appear on your newsfeed.
Facebook was originally designed to addicting, and the engineers have continued to implement more changes to the newsfeed to make it more addicting.
Unfollowing everyone allows people to still contact you over Facebook, but you are no longer a consumer of their advertising. You can have your cake and eat it too.
With regard to Instagram I would highly recommend deleting it. Instagram is widely known to be the worst social media for mental health. When you use Instagram you are paying for it two ways. You are consuming the advertising on your feed, and you are sacrificing your mental health. People post pictures of themselves at their best and it creates unrealistic life standards. You should focus on living a cool life, rather than making other people think you live a cool life.
A good rule of thumb is to minimize the pictures you post on social media. This is where people get caught up in checking their likes and comparing themselves to others.
Twitter is an interesting case. I enjoy sharing my ideas on Twitter and it is a great way to drive traffic to this website. However, I hate seeing people argue about politics, and gender/feminism on my Twitter feed. The simplest solution is to mute certain words. This isn’t to say I don’t think these topics are important, I just don’t want to see them on my Twitter.
Call them fake news is only partially in jest. Most news is biased and irrelevant.
The mainstream news is a terrible way to understand the world. Each news service has its own biased worldview. The conflicts presented in the news are always dramatized and paying attention to it saps your energy and attention. This is one of the greatest distractions of our times.
In the news industry they have an expression, “if it bleeds it leads.” Just like social media companies, news companies make money from your attention. There has been a transition from new companies selling newspapers to online advertising. News companies make money from clicks rather than selling whole newspapers. This has given rise to clickbait titles and spammy ads on news websites. Your best option is to avoid the mainstream news.
Clean your Room
Cleaning your room is keeping your life in order. If your room is clean, your life is more likely to be organized. When your room is messy it adds chaos to your life. It is much easier to feel overwhelmed by things that happen to you if your room is a mess.
This fix is easy but it’s often overlooked. How you do one thing in life is how you do everything in life. It is hard to filter the information you receive when you don’t have the discipline to keep your room clean.
A meditation practice will teach you to be more relaxed and at peace with yourself. In a world that is full of distractions it is useful to meditate regularly. There are many meditation guides online that will teach you how to meditate.
Simplifying your Personal Life
As your personal life becomes more complicated it becomes difficult to filter the information your receive. A complicated personal life can overwhelm you just as much as information overload does. Just like cleaning your room teaches you to be organized, keeping a simple personal life makes it easier to simplify the sources of information you select.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Train Your Focus (One of my favorite blogs about mindful technology use)
Find Your Unstoppable Why (Motivation for overcoming technology addiction)
How To Stop Wasting Time (Self Explanatory)