Friday, November 8, 2013

Habits for Healthy Information Consumption

It’s never been more important for us to take control of the info we consume on a daily basis. Every piece of information we encounter throughout our day – whether we like it or not - changes who we are.

If we are to become who we are made to be, we must be deliberate about consuming the information that will shape us into such!

I have a long way to go. It’s a difficult process requiring courageous choices, but it’s worth it. Here are 10 things we are doing in our family to encourage healthy info consumption:

1. Get rid of cable TV.

I’m not quite saying throw the TV out the window. But no cable TV. Everything about cable TV is designed to hook and reel you in. Don’t take the bait. Instead, buy TV shows and movies individually (like on iTunes) when you want to watch them. Or you can always go out and watch them somewhere else (sports bar, friends house, etc.).

That way you’ll end up only watching things that are really worth watching, and nothing else. You’ll probably end up saving money in the end, too (we do).

2. Go ad-free radio.

Another great benefit of buying your TV/movies individually, rather than using cable TV, is that it removes a lot of ads from your life. In addition to that, spend <$10/month for ad-free Spotify or Pandora radio and you can listen to anything you want anywhere you go, with no ads! It’s worth it.

Every time you succumb to using a “free” service (that is supported by ads) you are selling a little piece of the formation of your soul. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

3. Use an RSS reader to follow your blogs/news online.

Many blogs and news sources let you read full articles straight from an online reader (and often with no ads) via RSS. It helps you consume just the content you like while avoiding the sidebars and teasers that litter most websites (which are all designed to suck you in further). Note: Most news sites will make you click over to their website from their RSS feed to read their full story. But you can at least read a little bit before deciding if it’s worth your time to do so and exposing yourself to the rest of their site. If you’re looking for an RSS reader, I recommend Feedly.

4. Sometimes quitting is good.

If you start watching a movie or TV show and it’s not amazing from the beginning, quit. Don’t mindlessly watch the rest of it. There are too many better things to consume. If you start a book/article and it’s not amazing from the beginning, quit. There are too many amazing things to read.

5. Turn off push notifications.

On your computer, on your phone, on your tablet. Check your email/Facebook/etc. when *you* decide it’s time to do so. If something is that urgent, somebody will call or text you. Otherwise, don’t risk it stealing the focus from what you set out to do today. It can wait for the proper time. It’s a great lesson in patience, too.

6. Put down your phone.

It’s practical to carry it with you when you go out, but when you get home or to work, put it across the room. Focus on whatever you are doing and don’t allow bad habits (of checking your phone every 3 minutes) to consume every idle moment of your day.

7. Be not afraid of missing out.

It’s okay if you don’t know the latest gossip, news or reality TV show ending. I promise. Try a month without it and you’ll see that the world is still spinning and that your life is probably better off, too!

Additionally, with so much great information at our fingertips on various topics, it’s easy to become information gluttons. Consume what you can, but let the rest go. If your expectation is to know everything there is to know about something, you will be chronically dissatisfied and stressed. The profound brain things inside your head will constantly hurt. By all means, enthusiastically pursue learning about your passions, but be content to consume an amount that fits well within the limits of the day God gave you.

8. Plan healthy things.

When you diet, it’s not enough to just avoid the junk food. You also need to plan healthy meals to take its place. If you only remove the junk info, you’ll find yourself just falling into new bad habits. When we are tired and idle, it’s easy to end up indiscriminately consuming whatever most easily pops in front of us (i.e. web surfing, channel surfing, DVR digging, gossip, etc.). Plan healthy activities to fill this void.

Play, listen and dance to great music. Sing songs together. Make something. Read a book. Tell stories to each other. Pray. Plan to watch a worthwhile movie together. Go outside. Play a sport. Go for a walk. The list is endless. Make a list of 10 things you’d like to do more of. I guarantee that consuming more mindless information, surfing the internet, watching more TV and listening to advertisements will not be on the list. Plan healthy things into your day.

9. Keep your social media in check.

Social media has found a unique place in our lives. But remember that such tools (especially if they are “free”) are not primarily designed to be what is best for you and your most important relationships. They are designed to keep you on their site for as long as possible by feeding your itchy clicky finger and your fear of missing out. Don’t be afraid to cut some cords or set some hard limits with how you use it. It’s powerful stuff, but don’t let it keep you from greater things.

10. Schedule silence.

You need silence, a complete break from the constant noise. If you don’t schedule silence into your day and then protect it, it won’t happen. Bonus: board up the windows, disconnect the electricity and block all wireless transmission. Guard your silence like a treasure. Flee to it. Cling to it as life. Schedule it in and make it a priority. Start with just a few minutes and try to build it up to an hour each day.

God is whispering to you there. Listen.

The Radical Life

by matthew warner

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