The Information Diet: Because our brain needs one
I have these questions in my mind while working on this article:
How many times did I interrupt myself before I can start to write?
How much time did I waste checking my messenger, email, youtube, instagram, that online game that I’m playing, and the number of downloads of my app on app store? I just check them without any good reasons by the way.
How vulnerable am I to easily give in to procrastination?
How stressful is the thought that I didn’t achieve anything because I wasted time doing something that is insignificant?
How long am I going to finish this short article?
How come that I’m fully aware of what I’m doing, but still stupid enough to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again?
The price of distraction
It’s no brainer that focus is necessary if we wanted to finish something. The more focused we are, the better quality of work we can produce. Of course, we all know that focus requires time and energy to build up. So once we’re distracted, we need to build it again, consuming more of our time and energy.
Now imagine how much of our quality time and energy are wasted for each time we’re distracted.
Here’s the problem. The bunch of information that is supposed to be helping us become productive is making us unproductive. Things that should keep us informed and updated like emails, instant messages, and social media is turning into distractions.
Too much information = distraction
One of the amazing capabilities of our brain is that it never stops seeking for new information. Depending on our interest or passion, some seek information for academic purpose, while others for scientific breakthrough that can save lives, a lot of people never stops learning for further improvement of their craft, but most just secretly waiting for the downfall of the person that they’re insecure of. Regardless, there are variety of things that we badly wanted to know, and thanks to the power of internet, our brain is satisfied from large amount of information that we can access.
But just like anything else, too much is bad. The starvation becomes addiction which takes toll on our ability to concentrate, giving us difficulty to work on things that needs to be done.
According to a study by Microsoft last 2015 (Don’t just believe on what I said, google it or go to their website), an average human being has an attention span of 8 seconds.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to blame technology for our declining attention span. Yes, technology is a big contributing factor. But it’s not technology’s fault. It’s our brain’s fault. Remember what I mentioned earlier that our brain never stops seeking for new information. It just happens that we spoil our brain’s desire using technology in a form of internet.
We can’t stop our brain
Because of our curious nature, our brain needs information just like our stomach needs food.
We humans are emotional creatures and we always want what feels good.
Believe it or not, our brain feels pleasure every time you feed it with information that it likes.
If you like cars, it feels good to know every car brands, every models, and every parts that is available.
Same thing applies when you’repassionate about music. Aside from listening to different songs everyday, you’re interested to know what’s the latest in the industry.
When you’re a die hard fan of a popular media franchise, for example Batman. You read every comics, watch every movies including tv series, play every video games, and search for every fun facts and trivia.
Now let me clarify, feeding your brain with the information that you’re passionate about is a good thing. Good information gives you a reason to wake up everyday, knowing that there’s something new to look forward to. Our brain’s never ending exploration for new information is the root causefor multiple breakthroughs in the field of science, technology, and arts.
A lot of diseases today already have cure, traveling from one place to another is quicker than before, communicating far away with our love ones is possible, we have a variety of delicious meals to eat, there’s a lot of wonderful music to listen to, and choices of shows to watch.
Every convenience that we’re experiencing today, every progress that we’re achieving each day, the good life that most of us have right now, it’s all thanks to our brain’s never ending hunger for new information.
But here’s the big problem. Due to our personal issues, we use our natural curiosity to numb our stresses and contemplate our low-self esteem.
Because of our undying need to be loved and respected. We look for people’s positive comment about us on social media, to the point that our self esteem is based on their affirmation. Then we become addicted to that affirmation wasting a lot of time looking for more, doing anything to get more, forcing people to provide more.
Because of our insecurities. The need to be better than others. We wanted to look for someone that we think are inferior than us. We like to know the failures of people that we’re insecure of and secretly celebrate on it.
Because we enjoy moral superiority over others. We endlessly search for what’s wrong with our loved ones, friends, and neighbors including the society itself. Then we conform to our low self-esteem by being self-righteous, criticizing everything, and wanting to be always right.
When we feed our brain with information for the sake of satisfying our low self-esteem. Not only we become a toxic and complicated person, but also a distracted, unproductive, and inefficient individual.
That’s why we need information diet in our lives. Because no matter how stubbornly in-denial we are when it comes to our own own personal issues, you and I both know that we don’t want to be that toxic, complicated, and unproductive person.
It is true that we can’t stop our brain from seeking new information, but we can control the information that we feed on our brain.
The Information Diet is for you and me. The main goal is to improve our ability to focus, prolonging our attention span.
The diet plan
When we say diet, we usually means limiting and restricting our food intake.
Now let’s treat information like food for our brain which is basically categorized as either healthy or unhealthy.
Healthy information makes us a better person by nourishing our mind and strengthening our personal values. Its useful, reliable, and important which has significant impact to us and to people around us.
Unhealthy information only amplifies our personal issues by feeding insecurity, self-pity, or hatred. Its useless, unreliable, and unimportant which only destroys us and the people around us.
Now since we already differentiate healthy from unhealthy information. The next action is to filter all information that you’re feeding into your mind by only accepting healthy information. It sounds easy if you’re just alone in your private room. But we’re human beings. We go outside. We deal with different kinds of people. We have access to the outside world.
Start with smartphone
Let’s start with the number one source of human distraction called smartphone.
There are lots of apps available that is meant for connection and convenience but ends up being a distraction to our daily lives. You have 2 options on how to deal with apps like these. Either you place them out of shortcuts and put it where it’s harder to access, or completely uninstall them if you can’t control yourself. Begin dealing with social media apps since it provides enormous amount of distraction. Then your next targets are news feeds, video streaming, games, and online shopping. These kind of apps that I also mentioned are extremely engrossing and time-consuming as well.
Disable the notifications of not so important group messages. We often don’t notice that it’s also a source of distraction. Especially if you belong to multiple group chats.
Unfollow and unsubscribe to all forms of media, regardless if it is entertainment or news. Yes you hear me right, even the news. Most articles or videos today are just created to play on your emotions for the sake of clickbait. Meaning their priority is just making money and not providing facts. It’s more opinion based rather than fact based. Most doesn’t provide any significance to your life but they make it feel like its a big deal. Because boring information doesn’t get audience, that’s why they make it upsetting or the opposite of it. So for the sake of your mental health, unfollow or unsubscribe. I’ll discuss later on how to stay updated.
Here’s the part that you need to be kinda remorseless. Unfollow (I said unfollow, not unfriend) the people that is not adding value and doesn’t have any significant impact to your life.
The people around you
Who should you spend more of your time with? This includes the people that you’re following on social media.
Don’t forget that the people that you spend time with also provides healthy and unhealthy information.
Spend more time with people that brings out the best in you, or with someone who has the same goal as you have. Better if you spend it with people who already achieved your goal. Like if you want to become an entrepreneur, spend more time with people who’s already an entrepreneur.
Distance yourself from people that brings out your insecurities or makes you feel worse about yourself and the world. If you’re following this kind of people on social media, unfollow them. Don’t think twice. Like I said earlier, you need to be kinda remorseless on this matter. If you think an individual or group is only providing unhealthy information, you can say “No” nicely and respectfully to them.
Learn to say no
This thing is something that most of us tend to overlook. There are lots of distraction that we need to deal with because of saying yes to everything. Like always saying yes to extra curricular activities that you’re not seriously interested, or won’t make any significance to your life for the sake of being nice. How about always involving yourself to matters or affairs that don’t really concern you. These things that I mentioned badly hurts your ability to focus.
Let me repeat this again, you can say “No” nicely and respectfully. Then to avoid their influence, don’t stay on their environment.
Use your home court advantage
Environment plays a big factor on our ability to focus.
If you love playing video games but needs to finish a research paper. Don’t expect that you can easily focus if you’re working on your gaming room. Working in the same room with people who are just browsing on their phone or watching something won’t help either.
The technique is to find a place where the only thing that you can access are items for work. Like if you need to finish that woodwork without a distraction, having a workshop where only your tools are available really helps.
A place where a lot of people are working, like coffee shop or library is also a good option.
Personally, If I find myself having difficulty to focus. I usually start working at the coffee shop. Then once my momentum is built, I can continue working at home.
But wait, don’t deprive yourself
I didn’t say that you should forever stop checking your email and instant messages, or quit pleasuring yourself with any forms of entertainment like watching videos, browsing social media, or playing video games.
Most of us use email for work and instant messages to connect with our loves ones. But checking it should only be done in a specific time. It’s not something that you should do every minute or every hour. Same thing applies to watching videos, browsing social media, or playing video games. You can’t deprived yourself from any forms of entertainment because our brain needs it to cope up with everyday stress.
The same way “cheat day” for food diet is planned where there’s only specific time and amount to eat unhealthy foods, the same applies to information diet.
Schedule the specific time to check and reply to emails. Twice or thrice a day is the recommended practice. Same action applies to dealing with instant messages. Then, make a self agreement that you’ll only break this practice if its a matter of importance.
Let’s go back to what our school taught us. Avoid social media, games, videos, and news when working. They should only be done on certain and limited hours.
When it comes to making yourself updated, schedule it as well and avoid opinion biased news. You’ll know that the news is opinion biased if it can quickly triggers an emotion, like it upsets or excites you. A healthy source of news which is purely facts are often boring, which is a good thing. Because the goal is just to be informed and not to be engrossed, so that your brain won’t have any unnecessary information.
It’s not going to be easy
One of the hardest thing to do is changing a habit.
Sadly, our brain is now used to distraction and addiction to information, which makes us mentally weak. That’s why doing the information diet won’t be easy.
But you and I are not alone in this. We’re all facing the same challenge.
Just like having a gym buddy where you both encourage and watch out each other to continue working out. We can all do the same for information diet as well.
We’re talking about our mental health here. It’s time to take control on what information we consume, else it will control us.
© 2019 Arc Sosangyo