We all have our time management weak points — mine involves a love of information. I could happily spend ages just reading all the wonderful things printed online.
There’s so much to read and watch — and so much of it is good. I mean, just think of the links that flow through Facebook and Twitter. … All the craft and care that comes flooding through my browser tabs every day hour minute.
But, of course, I don’t want to spend all my time in front of a screen (or a newspaper, or a magazine) reading this wonderful stuff. I need to work. I want to see family and friends. I want to pursue other interests.
So, what is the answer to not being overwhelmed by all the possible stuff to read or podcasts to listen to or videos to watch? While I was driving to the dentist this past Monday, I happened to listen to a podcast called Minimalism for the Rest of Us, hosted by Robert Wall. Episode 26, called “Drinking From the Fire Hose,” had Wall in conversation with Patrick Rhone, and some of it really resonated with me.
Here’s the first thing that caught my attention, from Rhone:
What it really comes down to is: Instead of drinking from the fire hose of information, being real picky and choosy about the information that you want to engage with.
“Information you want to engage with” was a phrase that really grabbed me. So much of what’s out there might be interesting and important, but I’m not going to engage with it.
What information would I engage with? Here are some examples:
- Information that helps me serve my clients better.
- Information that I want to share with friends, family, colleagues, etc.
- Information that helps me make a decision: who to vote for, what route to take.
- Information that spurs me to action: calling my senator or cooking a healthy meal.
- Information that helps me learn about a subject I’ve consciously decided to spend time educating myself about.
But that means there is a lot of information I won’t engage with.
And that brings me to another quote from the podcast:
Wall: I had a point at which I thought I should be just reasonably informed on world news. … If I just subscribe to like CNN Top Headlines, nine times of 10 I could read the headline
Rhone: and get everything you need to know.
I’ve had this same type of realization. Oftentimes, a headline or a tweet tells me all I need to know about a topic. If I feel I need to know more, the first paragraph of the article might be all I need. I still tend to have a nagging sense of guilt about not reading the full article, especially when it is a well-researched and well-written piece. But hearing Wall and Rhone talk about this might make me feel somewhat less guilty.
Here’s an example of a headline being plenty: As I’m writing this, the New York City mayoral primaries are being decided. I don’t live in New York; I’m not going to engage with that information. I do want to know the results, but a quick glance at a headline is all I need. I really don’t need any details beyond that.
Here’s some final advice from Rhone, about deciding whether or not to let an information source into your life, be it an article someone linked to, a podcast, an RSS feed, a magazine, or anything else: “No is the default.” If something is truly important, he says, multiple people will point him to it, and that might lead to a Yes.