I’ve long been a fan of what I call self-censorship. I believe in feeding my brain regularly, but I am conscious of what I feed it and how it will nourish me. I like to practice [semi]minimalist concepts for what I give my attention to.
I avoid most “news”. Some of this came as a result of studying journalism in college where we spent a year reading and comparing two different newspapers to identify bias (Cliff Notes: they’re all biased). Some of this came from Andrew Weil’s “8 Weeks to Optimum Health” where I learned to become comfortable with “news fasting” to maintain my overall health.
Mark Manson recently posted his suggestion for an Attention Diet which likens informational consumption to food consumption and shares a process to reduce “junk” consumption from your diet. (Caution: NSFW – Mark is very liberal with profanity which I appreciate and which scientists have deemed to be an indicator of intelligence but I understand his writing style may not speak to everyone.)
I had already done many of the things that Mark recommended (unfollowing virtually all social media content that wasn’t an absolute yes, limiting sources of news, etc.) but I learned a few new tips as well that I’m incorporating into my own attention diet.
Here is what my current attention diet includes:
Create before I consume. I journal or blog before I view anything else. (Note: this has worked well when I am up before my husband, less so when he is distracting me.)
Curate my consumption: I liked Manson’s idea for news and have saved Wikipedia’s current events portal on devices where my previous news source used to be. It’s straightforward, simple, and a broader worldview. For blogs, I use Feedly (for personal and professional sources). For podcasts, I use Spotify. My criteria for subscribing to a blog or podcast is whether it nourishes me or provides information I need for my profession. (I’ve long-avoided celebrity magazines and reality TV, so in this case only looked at my digital consumption.)
Cultivate screen-free time: I work in IT so I’m attached to a screen most of the day. I’m also an “indoor cat” by nature which means that my favorite hobbies involve my couch and a screen (reading, playing games, watching Netflix with my husband). Manson recommends using tools to reduce screen time and I may try those, but I fear they will trigger my rebel-self. I already deploy some of the same artificial limits to my screen time that I use for my [semi]minimalist pursuits and will expand those limits to include areas where I think screen time is excessive. For me, mealtimes are the worst — I always feel sad when I see a family sitting at a dinner table each individually on their screens. My family created mealtime screen limits early on and still live by those today. I’ll pay attention to my attention over the coming days and see where else I may want to reduce my screen time.
*GIGO is an IT principle that applies much more broadly in my life.