Hi. I’m Terry Frazier and I am an information junkie.
One of the principles of Tim Ferris’ 4–hour Workweek is the low information diet. Ferris’ opinion is that success requires massive output – massive action – rather than the constant intake of information. Information that is not immediately useful is nothing more than a distraction. And distractions equal low output.
I don’t know about you, but I am easily distracted. I use this distraction to procrastinate – to avoid the things I ought to be doing but don’t want to do. I cannot count the times in a week that I check e-mail “just one more time” as an excuse to avoid doing something else. The same can be said for reading the RSS feeds in my reader, perusing newsgroups, etc.
Sure, I am up on all the latest chit-chat and brainstorming and minutiae, but very little (most often none) of that contributes to my completing a given task. It usually just sucks time away. So I work longer hours to get the important stuff done. I sit at the computer for hours, typically squeezing in 10–12 hours of time even though I am only billing for 8 (at the most.) Add in phone calls, sorting through spam, and the recalibration time I lose every time I leave a project and go back to it and it could easily add up to an extra day or three per month. I do get an occasional chuckle, or learn some tidbit that is helpful, but nowhere near enough to justify the time.
This is, in a word, stupid.
For the past few days I have been revamping my info-diet. I have unsubscribed from dozens of mail lists that I no longer read. I have dropped out of all but a handful of internet groups, leaving only those that are immediately applicable to a current project. I have reduced the number of feeds in my reader from 97 to 11 – the very few people who I actually know in some way plus two sites that are applicable to a current project.
I have long ago given up watching the news or reading newspapers or news magazines – if there is a serious need I can buy a back issue. I don’t care about the elections. Any candidate the Democrats pick will be a nut-case. And I will intensely dislike whoever the Republicans pick.
That’s the easy stuff. The hard part is stopping myself from watching TV and reading stuff that doesn’t matter. I have hundreds of books. They sit on shelves, calling to me. I want to read them. But most of them don’t make me more productive or effective.
As a practical matter, Ferris suggests checking e-mail and voice mail 2x per day – at noon and 4pm – responding to it and being done.
Ferris is not the first to suggest this. I have read a dozen “productivity” books on time management, getting things done, project management, organization, etc. None of them helped. This is the first time its really sunk in that I should just stop all of it. Just stop.
There are still tasks that must be done that I don’t want to do. This is where outsourcing comes in. I’m working on that. But at the same time I’m going to lose about 20 lbs of excess information fat. I’m going to stop watching my “favorite” TV shows – there aren’t that many and they aren’t any good after one season anyway. But it’s going to be tough eating breakfast without Mike & Mike in the Morning. And leaving the TV off during all that hotel room time I have every week will be tough. But I’m a man. I can change. If I have to. I guess.