Don’t blame technology for your lack of self-control

by Shane Perris on Sunday, 30 November, 2008

in opinions

via Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies)

via Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies)

News sites. RSS feeds. Email. Microblogging. Social networks. BitTorrent. iView (or Hulu or BBC iPlayer). Time sinks, each and every one of them, providing as much or as little value to your daily existence as you are prepared to let them.

“Information overload” is a fantasy, an illusion, and deep down inside you know it, too.

Crying about living in some sort of poorly articulated temporal poverty doesn’t change the foundation of the problem – this is your life because this is how you choose to live it.

Technology is not the problem.

The internet is not the problem.

Abundant information is not the problem.

A dazzling array of choices is not the problem.

The blame game is only useful in so far as it can deflect attention away from the real problem – you.

Try this for an exercise:

  • List the types of information you consume that leave you overwhelmed
  • List all the things that are most important to you: future goals, things to learn, hobbies and so on. [1]
  • Try and draw any relevant connections between the subject matter of  two lists

 If I was a betting man, I’d happily put a few bucks down that there is very little, if any, connection between the two subject areas.

You want to feel less overwhelmed? Start taking some responsibility and exercise some control over the inputs you choose to let in to your life. I’m not a salesman so I don’t do guarantees, but I am confident that once you match your information inputs with what you have identified as really important in your life, you will feel a lot less overwhelmed and consumed.

I’m not suggesting that you need to go cold turkey on everything that demands a portion of your time. That’s not realistic for most people. Being mindful and aware of what’s coming and going out is, on the other hand, realistic and being mindful is half of the battle.

How many times have you suddenly realised one day that a bad habit has crept into your life?  Something that started as a once off slowly became the occasional treat which quickly morphed into something semi-regular and next thing you know it’s embedded in your daily routine.

Hyper-connectivity can be like crack for information addicts but you can’t blame the connection or the information it carries. That’s like a junkie blaming the syringe. Mobile internet, high speed broadband, handheld devices – these are all just tools you can use to construct the reality that best suits you.

Don’t settle for second best. Know the life you want to lead and act accordingly. Above all, take responsibility for who and what you are. If your goals and your actions are not aligned, change one of them. Which one you change is up to you.

[1] The number of things isn’t important, it’s the process of thinking about them that counts. However, if you are the type of person who desperately needs a number, 5 is a good one to start with.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cza December 7, 2008 at 8:52

True enough. I can never agree less.

As a student who’s trying her best to cope up with the demands of soph year in science high school, I believe I should do the same as you mentioned in here.

Thanks for posting this one. :)

2 Shane Perris December 11, 2008 at 21:42

I’m glad you liked it, Cza. In my own experience and in my interactions with others, I have found that many problems related to ‘information overload’ are actually self-inflicted. Having said that, a lot of this is easier said than done. The fun is in the journey.

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