zen habits : breathe

Edit Your Life, Part 6: A Media Fast

Quick note: Every Wedneday is Simplicity Day on Zen Habits, and for the next few weeks, these posts will be a series called “Edit Your Life,” looking at ways to simplify different parts of your life.

I’m a former newspaper editor, and one of the things I learned was to edit brutally (no sarcastic comments about why I don’t do that with my blog posts). Cut out everything that’s not necessary, and you’ve got a more meaningful story.

I highly recommend editing your life.

Today’s edit: A Media Fast.

This is going to be a controversial post, undoubtedly, as it will ask you to consider giving up some of the things you’re addicted to most: television, DVDs, movies, news, magazines, newspapers, and … gasp! … the Internet. Don’t tune out yet, though: this is not a permanent thing, but call it an experiment instead.

Take a minute to think about how much information you process every day. If you’re like me and a lot of other people, you get a lot of your news on the Internet, and you also read a lot of blogs. You might also read books and magazines and newspapers. You probably also watch a lot of TV, where you get entertainment and news. You might watch a lot of DVDs, and listen to the radio on the way to work. At work, you might get memos and emails and a billion other pieces of information coming at you. You might be a part of an online forum, or social site, or newsgroup, or mailing list (or several!).

It’s information overload.

Our brains are not made to process this much information. We can do it, but it gives us a lot of stress, and we cannot think about any of the information long enough for it to give us real value. We are in the middle of a vast river of information, and it just flows by us constantly.

And then there’s all the time we spend on all this media.

Take a minute to think about how much time you spend online (typically a few hours), watching TV or DVDs (typically a few more hours), and reading all the other stuff mentioned above (another hour or two). Now think about how many goals you could accomplish if you cut those activities out of your life. The time you would gain would be tremendous.

So what do you do about it? Sometimes it’s good to get drastic. Try a media fast. But is it even possible? Yes, it is. Here are some ideas:

Imagine the peace of mind that could come from shutting off the river of information that comes at you daily. Imagine the focus you could find without all the distractions. Imagine that your life can be changed for the better with this one little edit. It may seem difficult to quit an addition, but don’t you think it might be worth it? At least give it a try.

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