This is amazing to me, but I’m on day nineteen of a Daily News Blackout. (Note: This was originally posted 3/27/12 at JustBeHeard.com)
I have literally not checked any of my daily sources of news (other than the weather and the blogs I follow) for almost three weeks. And no, I’m not on vacation.
This might not sound like a big deal to you, but I have a serious news habit. It’s embarrassing, but some days I will “check in” as much as thirty or forty times a day. Crazy. So checking in zero times is really hard.
And this is actually my second attempt. I first started a couple of months ago but fell off the wagon a few weeks ago. (Curse you, Republican primaries!) But I’m back on it again, and it feels great.
Now, before you freak out on me, I haven’t shirked my civic duties. I still know what’s going on. I’m just not giving it my attention Every. Single. Minute. Of. The. Day.
I’ll be sitting at my computer working on something, and every few minutes I get this impulse: Hmm, wonder what’s going on? So I take a little tour of my computer. Quick check the news. Scan scan scan. Stock prices. Okay. Quick check email. Scan. File. Read. Trash. Back I come. Except, I’m not really back. I forgot what I was working on.
Same thing continues when the work day is done. I’m sitting at dinner. Suddenly, there’s the impulse again: Hmm, wonder what’s going on? So: iPhone out. Quick tour. I’m back. And what does that get me? Knowledge Points: Plus Two (maybe); Honey Points: Minus Twenty (definitely). I’m down eighteen points!
It would be one thing if the news was filled with relevant and helpful information. But it’s not. It’s negative and sensational–and it has no direct bearing on my life. It’s the worst possible combination: It stresses you out but there’s nothing you can do about it.
The funny thing is, checking the news like this feels like I’m doing stuff. Handling things. Staying on top of the situation. But the truth is, I get very little done. And it costs me a lot.
So I’m done with it. And so far, it’s great.
Here’s why I think you should try it, too:
• It Hurts Your Work
• It Bums You Out
• It’s Contagious
It Hurts Your Work
Creating is like digging. The first ideas you get are the obvious, surface ones that everyone finds. It takes time to get down to the good stuff. Every time you break your attention, you start over again at the surface. Do it regularly and you’ll never create what you’re capable of.
Also, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Our ideas are triggered by the last thing in our attention. (You’re thinking about one thing. Your next thoughts are a riff on that.) When you put negative, sensational stuff into your mind, guess what comes back out?
It Bums You Out
Constantly following the news is like wearing “depress-o-matic” glasses: everything looks dark and hopeless. It’s like the Matrix in reverse. The virtual world is frightening. The real one is inspiring. (Want proof? Watch this TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future.html) So the news not only bums you out, it disconnects you from reality. That can’t be good. :-)
Do you want to be the kind of person who lifts people up or pulls them down? I thought so. Me too. (Up!) When you’re coming from a lower level, it brings others down, too. It just does. You don’t want to be that person. And the rest of us need you to not be that person.
Bonus Reason: You Don’t Need It!
Question: When was the last time something happened “out there” that you honestly couldn’t have waited a few days to hear about? I’m not talking about tornado warnings, tsunami alerts or nuclear crises. This is just your daily (or hourly) dose of news. How often have you needed to know right away?
Answer: Practically never.
Repeat after me: I don’t need it. I don’t need it. I don’t need it.
It may feel like you do, in the same way it feels like you need that next cup of coffee or that jelly doughnut. But you don’t. You really don’t.
My “Expert” Program
Okay, if you’re thinking three weeks into my second round doesn’t make me an expert, you’re right. But hey, I’m three weeks ahead of you! :-)
Here’s what I’m doing to kick my news habit and still stay informed.
1) One Day a Week
I’m limiting my news intake to one day a week. I also follow quite a few daily blogs and, of course, the weather. But no headlines. And no politics.
2) Read “The Week”
On my designated news day, instead of any “dailies,” I read The Week Magazine. I get everything I need to know in all the areas I’m interested in–and it’s great. Takes about an hour. I totally love it. It’s on the iPad now, too, which is even better. (I don’t get anything for promoting them, by the way, if you’re wondering.)
3) Mark a Dedicated Calendar
I print a blank month calendar in iCal and tape it on a wall in my office. If I’ve been successful for a full day, the following morning I mark an “x” in that day’s box. It’s surprising how well this little tactic works. There’s only one box missing an “x” so far this month.
That’s it. That’s my program. You don’t need to do exactly what I’m doing, of course, but whatever you do, you should really give it a try. Once a week. It’s all you need. Get your mind back, get your attention back. Do great work. Love your life.
Now, in the comment section, tell me:
How bad is your news habit? What’s your best story about it? If you’ve kicked it, what specific things helped you the most? Your experience will help others (and me) so don’t be shy!
Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing.
If you find today’s post helpful, forward it to two news junkie friends. They’ll thank you for it. Or at least they should. :-)
P.S. If you’re serious about trying this, sign up for the Daily News Blackout HabitForge.
HabitForge: Daily News Blackout