Part of the source of the stress and anxiety I was feeling last week came from feeling overwhelmed by information. And that came from me spending way too much time online, checking my email or Facebook every ten minutes. The result was that I was spending too much time thinking about whatever people emailed me or Facebooked about, and not about the things I wanted to think about. It disturbed me enough that I did a sudden pullback to:
-checking email no more than once per day and for a maximum of an hour (if
needed, I’ll allow myself two shorter sessions, but not totalling more than an
-not checking Facebook at all. Perhaps I’ll aim for going on for no more than
an hour somewhere between once a week and once a month.
-Checking my work email at four set times through the day.
The result has been an immediate and significant calming. During the stretch until the next email check, there is almost no risk of someone diverting my thoughts to whatever they think is important at the moment. They could always call if it was urgent, but few people (even at work) do so. This gives me the tranquility and the concentration to focus on whatever I want to be thinking about or doing.
What about those dull moments, when I’d check email just for a break from whatever I was working on? Turns out, I have no problem finding other meaningless things to do. I look at upcoming events for the weekend, I write some product reviews for things I’ve purchased, feeling like I owe it to the people who have helped me make good purchases with their reviews, I write emails that I put into a document to send during my once-daily period (the emails I write are based more upon the people and ideas I’m thinking about and prioritizing rather than who writes to me at a given moment), I look into good books and music, for myself and my son. I’m reading more, listening to more news and podcasts, spending better quality time with my son and generally feeling calmer.
Pulling back on information was a technique strongly recommended by The Four Hour Work Week and was something I thought would be good to implement. I tried half-heartedly but never really succeeded.
The greatest challenge is when I’m trying to set something up on short notice and may need to see if the person has responded. Perhaps this will teach me to pick up the phone and communicate more often.
I hope I can maintain it, because right now, with limited information flow, I’m feeling like a calmer and happier person.