Facebook. Twitter. Fox News. BuzzFeed. Huffington Post. NY Times. SnapChat. PTJ. There is no shortage of information being thrown before our eyes these days. We are inundated with information “noise” through a plethora of vehicles such as our smart phones, our computers, or just chit-chat with our friends and co-workers. It has been reported that 62% of US adults get their news from social media. It seems that every day we become more and more connected to the outside world–something that has made us more aware of current topics and trends. But has this made us smarter? More productive? More effective in our jobs? Is this connectedness potentially contributing to information obesity?
Last year I did what I thought was unthinkable, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I did this because I was getting sick and tired of relying on it to entertain me in times of idle (i.e. when I was waiting in line at the store). I found myself mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed without gaining any meaningful information from it. Last year when the presidential election campaigns were in full effect, I would find myself becoming more and more annoyed with status updates, posts and shares. This is even more pertinent now with the US seemingly more opinionated on what is happening in the world. What ever happened to posting videos of cats in mittens, anyway? After getting over the empty hole of not looking at my phone throughout the day, I started to feel more liberated than ever before. My idle time was MY idle time.
Late last year, I listened to the audiobook “Deep Work” and really reflected on whether or not I was going deep in my daily life. Turns out I spent quite a bit of time in shallow work, even though I felt as though I was “busy”. Being busy does not equal being productive. I found that I replaced Facebook with Twitter in order get my daily social media fix. I was replacing one shallow activity with another–only feeding into my shallow information overload addiction. So it has taken some reflection and meaningful planning to create behavior change within myself to try to lead a more productive life. Here are a couple of things that I have changed:
- Twitter: I feel that Twitter is great for gaining knowledge and perspective on topics within our profession, but one must ask, “does this person who I am following provide actionable value?” Does the person or entity provide you with knowledge/information that makes a difference in your life? I won’t take offense if I see my own followers start to decrease!
- Email: This is considered one of the biggest time sucks there is. I have turned off all email notifications on my phone and close out my email application or web browser and now batch my time when I look at emails. This is great when in the clinic or in the office as you will not get distracted by the ping of your phone/computer coaxing you to “LOOK AT ME.”
- News: I honestly have shied away from the news more now than ever before. Folks like Tim Ferriss have stated that he hasn’t read or watched the news in years. We all know how looking at the news can suck us in and leave us emotionally drained or fired up. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
- Batching: I now group tasks into a set period of focused time. For example, I will look at scheduled times during the day and focus only on email during those times (and ONLY those times). Multitasking has been shown to deter us from much needed focus and productivity, therefore should be avoided as much as possible. One may even consider batching patient care. I tend to feel most productive in the morning–maybe folks could schedule their most challenging patients during this time. What about blocked time to wrap-up unfinished documentation or patient-related communication (uninterrupted of course)?
These few things have helped me stay more focused and go deep into my work. I assure you if you eliminate these distractions you will be more productive in your day. We need to cut the fat from our information diet reducing our mental waist circumference. So, how lean is your information diet?
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