I am an addict
June 7, 2021
No, I don't go to anonymous meetings to support others or to get support. This addiction isn't thought of as destructive like drugs or alcohol. But it does affect me on a daily basis.
I'm addicted to information
You might be thinking, "But information is a good thing, right?" Often at the heart of all addictions are things that aren't bad. But when obsessed upon or distorted, they can be debilitating and destructive.
For example, alcohol isn't impairing in modest quantities, but it is when you drink too much. Food is necessary to sustain our bodies, but it causes obesity when you eat too much. Sex is a gift from God, but is destructive when people distort it into pornography.
Overconsumption can lead to imbalance
With information consumption, the more we consume, the less we produce. The less we produce, the less fulfilled we feel so we consume more.
The internet and cell phones have put more information in our pocket than we can fathom. If we don't limit our intake, we can become overwhelmed by the shear volume available. It's also important that when we do consume, we do so with intention.
With a phone or computer nearby, it's hard to resist searching for answers to my latest query. Social media lures me in. The links throughout an article beg me to keep reading. To go further down the rabbit hole. You know the feeling. "What?! I've been on YouTube/Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/etc. for an hour?!"
While I hope that isn't the norm for you, I know how common the struggle is. It doesn't feel good when you realize you burned through productive time like that.
So where do we go from here?
I've been minimizing distractions for a year or two. I'll share some of the tactics that have helped me consume less.
1. App time limits
Most phones now offer the ability to set time limits for specific apps right within the setting. If that isn't the case, there's an app called Freedom that can set time limits across platforms.
2. Website time limits
I found a way to set time limits on websites that are distracting. There's a browser extension called Leechblock. I maintain a list of distracting sites. Then Leechblock engages once I reach the time limit.
3. Turn off notifications for distracting apps
Turning off notifications for distracting apps prevents you from opening them. I turn off notifications for most apps that I don't want bugging me.
4. Notification batching
Notification batching is a newer tactic I've tried. Intercepted notifications are still accessible, but they are delivered at set intervals. I set mine for 8:00AM, 1:00PM, 5:00PM, and 9:00PM.
I'm currently using Spren on android. I'm not sure if there is an option on iPhone.
5. Add friction to get to distracting apps
If there's an app on my home screen that I mindlessly waste time on, I remove it from the main screen so it's harder to get to. If that doesn't help, I hide it. I've uninstalled the most distracting apps.
6. Put your phone in the other room
My phone is where most of my distractions come from. If I need to focus on something or someone, I put the phone in the other room. I'll still hear phone calls, but then I'm less likely to check when notifications do come through.
7. If-Then Planning
I've talked about if-then planning before. Having a planned exit from distractions can help. For example, "If I get distracted, I will close the distracting app." This could be all you need to snap out of a distracting situation.
8. Time box when you allow yourself to get distracted
Allowing yourself time to get distracted and consume information is important. I know I need breaks where I allow my mind to wander. The important thing is to limit those times and respect the limits.
9. Get someone to help hold you accountable
My wife and I know it's important to stay off our phones as much as possible when our kids are awake. We want to give them the attention they deserve. Having each other as accountability partners makes that easier. Finding someone who wants to reduce their distractions as well can be a great way to reach that goal.
10. Reward yourself when you succeed
My last tactic is to reward yourself when you do well. Set a goal for avoiding distractions and information overload. If you achieve your goal, have a reward in mind.
It's a process
These are some of the tactics that I've used and continue to use. I am not as distraction free as I'd like to be, but I have improved. Staying aware of where my time is going will allow me to improve more.
I still have to add distracting sites to my list and frequently prune the apps on my phone. It's a constant process in this age of information, but a worthwhile one. I will continue to guard my time so I can focus on the important things. You should too.