As I sat down to do some writing this evening, I looked to my left in our living room where my wife has a stack of magazines, has to be at least 8″ tall.
Unfortunately, instead of me looking at them as magazines, many of which are still in their plastic mailing jacket, I see a stack of dollar bills that have been inadvertently thrown into the fireplace, or in this case, given to the magazine publishers who, most-likely, continue to accept our unknowing auto-payment so they can keep delivering something to our home that we aren’t using properly.
It’s our fault. No one else to blame but us.
But as I’m sitting here staring at the cover of Health, it dawned on me: There was a time in my life when I couldn’t wait to see a magazine in our mailbox.
Longevity. Cooking Light. Guitar. Men’s Health. GQ.
And then came The Hockey News – A weekly!!!
There was an anticipation in looking forward to seeing a magazine show up. And when it did come, there was nary a page left unread. The ads. The classifieds. The editorials & columns. And of course, the articles.
There were hundreds of magazines that were vying for my attention, for all of our attention. You’d see fliers in the Sunday papers, or my kids would sell magazine subscriptions for their school fundraisers: Pick 3 magazines at $12/year and get a 4th for free.
And it was the information that was available. If you wanted to dig more into a topic, you might go to the library and find a couple of books on a subject. This was before libraries were exchanging books between facilities, so if your library didn’t have something, you’d likely have to change your search terms in the card catalog.
Well, I’m sure you know where I’m going, woebegone as I might be leading towards given the overstocking of information we can now avail ourselves to.
It’s ridiculous, it really is. There’s simply too much.
And that’s what brought me to my thought: I miss my magazine subscriptions.
They were an information control mechanism. A valve in a water main. They held back the deluge that has resulted in the information overload that I feel all the time.
An issue of Men’s Health might have, say, 10 articles in it about various topics. Throw in 6 columns, a couple of editorials. And that was it. For the month.
For the next 29 days, there’d be no more Men’s Health articles hitting me. No dings. No alerts. No email attachments. That was it until next month.
There was an anticipation that was built in that model. It allowed the article content to root. It made you look in the “In Next Month’s Issue” section to see what the publisher had cooking up. You savored the articles because you knew that would be it for a few weeks.
And now what – What are we up against now? A constant flood of articles. Constant. It doesn’t rest. It makes my head sore.
As I sat down and looked at Christina Aguilera staring at me from the cover of the magazine, it occurred to me: That’s my issue. I’m tired of getting a new cover photo and 6 articles delivered to my doorstep EVERYDAY. I don’t WANT that much information. I don’t NEED that much information everyday. I survived for decades without being inundated on a daily, let alone hourly basis. I survived 54 years on the planet with a trickle of the information coming into my circle as we have coming at us today.
So you know what: I’m done. It’s time to unsubscribe.
Now, I know that sounds like a really cute idea. We’ve all heard it before. Nothing new to see here, folks. I didn’t invent unsubscribing.
But I’m doing it. I can’t NOT do it.
Look, you’ve heard me say it before: I don’t have the capacity to deal with information overload. Multi-tasking doesn’t work. The brain can’t consciously think effectively of more than one thing at a time if you are going to do that one thing to the best of your abilities.
I’m tired of feeling like if I don’t read EVERYTHING that comes into my in-box that I’m missing something. Like I NEED to read all of the articles in today’s ForConstructionPro’s email newsletter that I get everyday.
I don’t know about how you do it, but I keep a folder in my email baskets called “2 Week Max,” which, as the name implies, should be emptied of items older than 2 weeks. It allows me to keep my inbox empty while keeping emails, like newsletters of web article links that sound interesting in a place where, if I have time, I can cull through and read.
You know what: “2 Week Max” now fills up! And I can’t get myself to simply lop off the expired emails & articles, simply on principle-I want to read what they contain!!
So, my point: It has to stop. I have to make it stop. I want it to stop.
I love the authors & articles. I enjoy reading. And learning.
I read articles, always thinking about how I might be able to share the good ones. To maybe turn ideas that I’m reading into an article. Or a podcast. Or a YouTube video.
But I’m not a machine. My brain, ALL OF OUR BRAINS needs time to absorb information. To reason. To ponder. To draw conclusions.
I want that feeling again. I want to stop chasing every rabbit hole that gets set in front of me because it’s convenient.
I want to rid myself of that slight nag of feeling like I’m missing something. Because at the end of the day, whatever I missed will likely not change the trajectory of my life. Really, it won’t.
Prune the grapevines so the entire plant grows stronger and provides more fruit.
That’s where I’m going. And I know that I’m not charting any new ground here. This is Minimalism. I get it.
But this is My Minimization. An engineer consciously cutting-back.
I’m going to refine my sources. The blogs I read. The books I read. The podcast authors I listen to. The YouTube channels I watch.
Everything will be vetted. I can’t consume it all. I want to consume what is purposeful for me.
Stay tuned. There are sure to be updates on my progress.
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