The Too-Much-Information Age
The other day I went online in search of a little background on a specific topic and once again found myself jumping from link to link, spiraling down the rabbit hole until I woke up and asked myself, “How did I get here?” Here in the too-much-information age, that’s a very easy thing to do. Increasingly, these “little” online distractions are robbing us of focus and doing a real number on our productivity.
A recent blog from Behance’s 99U (one of our favorite sites for inspiration), chronicles writer Sarah Von Bargen’s approach to these endless distractions. Von Bargen took a hard look at the problem, and came up with a bold solution – unleashing the power of the “opt-out” button.
Information Overload? Embrace “Intentional Ignorance”
By Allison Stadd
The availability of information in the digital age is overwhelming. For every mesmerizing Instagram profile you browse, there are hundreds of millions more. For every page of search results you scroll down, there are thousands upon thousands beyond that one. For every article you read or RSS feed you subscribe to on a research topic, you could spend the rest of your career consuming more where those came from, and never reach the end.
Writer Sarah Von Bargen discovered the magic of “intentional ignorance” when she clicked “mark all as read” in her RSS reader:
“This temporary ‘opting out’ has increased my productivity and cleared my mind like nothing else.
You see, I’m deep in ‘creation mode’ at the moment… And all those great articles and clever blog posts and super helpful tutorials that I usually read aren’t helping me get any closer my goals. In fact, they’re distracting and misdirecting me. …
So I’m making the decision to safeguard my focus and productivity. I’m putting the proverbial blinders on and keeping my eyes on my own paper. …”
Intentional Ignorance gives you space to do your best work. It frees up mental energy for big, exciting projects. It allows you to focus – with laser-like intensity – on one or two things. …
We all cycle through seasons in our lives and businesses – times when we’re seeking inspiration and insight and times when we need quiet single-mindedness and uninterrupted time. Take a look at where you are and what you’re doing and if you need to turn down the noise, go ahead and click ‘unfollow’ or ‘unsubscribe’ or even just ‘mark all as read.’
The Internet will still be here when you get back.”
Taking an information sabbatical is like giving yourself the gift of ignorance-as-bliss. What you don’t know that you don’t know can’t hurt you. You can adopt the principle of intentional ignorance even when you’re not in need of hyperfocus on a certain project. Set a monthly calendar reminder to scroll through all the content you’ve saved using your tool of choice—Pocket, Evernote, Pinterest, Google Docs—and delete anything that you’re not going to read right this second. Think you’ll get to those articles or videos at some point? As Von Bargen points out,
“I’m here to tell you that a) that won’t happen b) all those unread newsletters carry an immeasurable psychic weight. They make you feel bad just sitting there, all unread! Dude, delete them. That’s what Google is for.”