If you’re an average North American man, your brain has been reduced to tepid mush. You probably won’t make it through this post before clicking away to something less burdensome on your attention span. Certainly not if I tempt you with links like 22 Lies Disney Told About Hair, or 45 Things You’ve Experienced Working In Retail.
Still here? All right, congratulations. There’s hope for you.
This article is about how the internet is destroying your brain, and what you can do to reverse the process. It will teach you to manage your information flows, and to focus on what’s really important in your life.
If you can take action on the information in this article, you will immediately find that you are more productive, smarter, and happier in your life.
The Problem: Information Overload
How many times in an average day do you check your Email? Social Media? Blogs? Forums?
Don’t lie, because I know the answer from my web traffic reports: The majority of you will read a new post within a few hours of the time I publish it. Retweets and Twitter messages tend to come in a similar time frame. The really scary part is that my readers are, on average, smarter and more disciplined than the typical internet user.
Imagine having a conversation with an educated man of 1950, or 1750. You explain to him that in the year 2014, the citizens of the world have every piece of information ever produced, available at the click of a mouse. The result? Plato collects dust while silly cat pictures grind server centres into ash. Mozart accumulates a few million views, while Miley Cyrus collects billions. The internet had the potential to bring education to the masses. Instead, it has demonstrated that the masses are not just uneducated – they are ineducable. A clear argument, as if any were needed, that 90% of mankind belongs in chains.
Only one question remains: What sort of man will you be? Will you allow your mind to atrophy into a thoughtless slave to clickbait? Or will you exercise your willpower, and harness the internet as a tool for self-improvement?
The Solution: An Information Diet
If you made it this far down the page, you are probably not one of the hopeless cases. Your brain is not yet gone to slop. But without a conscious and rigorous information diet, it will be.
The only cure for information overload is willpower, pure and simple. There are tools, tricks, and systems which can help you, and we’ll get to them at the end of this post.
But at the end of the day, you need to decide that you are a man who is in control of his own mind and body. You need to build your own information management system. You need to design an information diet which maximizes your intake of useful, actionable information from the internet, while minimizing the amount of time you spend online.
Let’s break it down into a three-step process:
Step 1) Decide which information sources are worthy of your time
I have about fifty blogs in my Red Pill RSS feed. I also stay current with a few podcasts, I’m active on Twitter, and I post regularly at the Roosh V Forum and on Reddit.
Does this sound like a lot to handle? Well, I’m a special case. I operate a website that curates and organizes the best Red Pill content, The Red Pill Review. I am also a generally weird guy who has always spent a disproportionate amount of reading obscure blogs.
I think I’m a better man for it, but I also recognize that this path is not for everyone. A more typical young man should narrow it down to the five or ten blogs that are most relevant to his life. If I had to choose the five best sources of positive, actionable information, I would suggest:
These are not necessarily the five “best” blogs, but they all have useful, positive, and actionable information, and they are written by men whose disciplined and positive mental outlook is infectious. You should also check out the weekly top ten at The Red Pill Review, to expose yourself to some new ideas and authors.
You can add a few more of your favourite writers to that list, but keep the number low. Cut out everything that isn’t worthy of your time. Exposing yourself to garbage information sources pollutes your mind, and taints your soul.
Step 2) Build a routine that allows you to consume and retain information as efficiently as possible
After you limit the information you’re consuming, the next step is to minimize the time you spend consuming it.
The best way to do this is to ‘batch’ your reading. You might be surprised how little time it takes to keep up with your favourite blogs, when you check them once per week instead of several times per day. There is no good reason for any man to check his RSS and Twitter feeds every day. I promise you will never miss out on anything, if you read one of my blog posts or tweets a day late.
There are other advantages too. If you set aside a specific time each week to sit down and read seven day’s worth of content, your brain will be able to absorb information faster, understand how concepts relate to each other, and single out the most important takeaways from each week’s worth of reading.
If you have a set weekly reading routine, you can also keep a notepad or Commonplace Book on hand to record and organize what you’ve learned. None of this is possible when you do all your blog reading on the subway, lying in bed, or crushing a three-pounder in the office toilet.
Step 3) Apply these principles to all of your information flows
Thus far, I’ve been writing specifically about managing your intake of Red Pill information sources. But the principles of information management should apply to every aspect of your personal and professional life.
How often do you check your personal email and Facebook? It shouldn’t be more than once a day.
These principles apply to your professional life as well. Most office workers would be much more productive (and happier) if they limited their email checking to once per hour.
Every person is different, but the core principle is that you should minimize your information intake, and then minimize the time you spend consuming that information. If you don’t adhere to that principle, you’re wasting precious hours of your life, and probably letting your brain waste away.
As an example, here is my information diet:
- Catch up on a week’s worth of blog posts, tweets, comments, blog stats, forums, subreddits, and emails related to my “Jon Frost” persona.
- Select the Red Pill Review top ten
- (Optional) write a blog post or two
- Catch up on a week’s worth of RSS entries and forum posts related to my business
- Catch up on a week’s worth of personal email, social networks, and LinkdIn
- Catch up on work email and phone calls
- Complete my weekly planning, goal setting, and Weekly Review
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
- Hard Focus Time
- Zero RSS, Twitter, or other distractions
- Minimal work email and phone.
Saturday and Sunday
- Zero RSS, Twitter, or other distractions
- Hard focus on finishing at least one challenging book
(It doesn’t always work out perfectly. This Saturday for example, I spent more time playing flip-cup with teenagers; drinking shots of whiskey and human breastmilk; and diving naked off rooftops into two feet of beautiful fresh powder; than I did finishing Journey To The End Of The Night. But this is always the ideal that I’m working towards.)
Other Tools And Resources
I’ve spent a lot of energy in my life trying to come up with information and productivity systems that maximize my output. Here are the most effective tools that I’ve come across:
Getting Things Done, by David Allen
This is the best book on productivity, organization, and time management that you will ever read. Getting Things Done is a simple and effective system that anyone can implement, to immediately increase their productivity and decrease stress.
The Four Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss
4HWW is a great book that is about much more than productivity. It was my personal introduction to a lot of new ways of thinking about work and life, so I will always have a soft spot for it. I re-read it at least once a year, and it has held up very, very well for a book about internet businesses written in 2006.
Use A Work Shutdown Ritual
This is an idea that I first encountered a long time ago, in a blog post from Cal Newport. It’s more of a tool to reduce stress during non-work hours, but reducing stress is an essential part of getting more done during your work hours. Here is the gist of Cal’s system:
“Here’s my rule: After I’ve uttered the magic phrase, if a work-related worry pops to mind, I always answer it with the following thought process:
- I said the termination phrase.
- I wouldn’t have said this phrase if I hadn’t checked over all of my tasks, my calendar, and my weekly plan and decided that everything was captured and I was on top of everything.
- Therefore, there is no need to worry.
To form a good ritual you just need three things:
A quick series of steps for getting back on top of what’s going on in your student or working life; something you can do in 5 minutes at the end of each day.
A phrase you say when you complete the ritual.
An agreement with yourself that after you’ve said the magic words, the only acceptable response to a work-related thought is to think through the steps required for you to say the termination phrase.”
Leechblock is a Firefox plugin that forces you to set hard limits on which sites you can access, and when. It can be useful in the early stages of information withdrawal, when your willpower occasionally needs a kick in the ass.
I’m guessing that some of my readers have skimmed this article and made it to this final section while reading nothing more than the headings. If this describes you, trust me – you need this article more than anyone. Scroll back up and power through it. But if that’s too much, I’ll close with some bullet-point action items:
- Reduce the amount of information you take in
- Batch your information consumption so it takes up less time
- Keep a notebook nearby so you can retain and organize information
- Experiment with productivity systems so that you can accomplish more, in less time
- For more information on how I organize my information diet, maximize my personal productivity, and generally kick ass in life, check out chapter four of The Thumotic Lifestyle Guide And 30-Day Challenge.
Now readers: Tell me about your information diet. What tools and mental re-frames have you used to cure yourself of bad productivity habits? Comments are open below, and I’ll get to them in exactly one week.