Personal Productivity

Why You Should Stop Paying Attention to the News?

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
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“News travels fast in places where nothing much ever happens.” ~ Charles Bukowski

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Why You Should Stop Paying Attention to the News?

El “Chapo” Guzmán was arrested in Mexico. Dozens of women are sexually assaulted in several German cities during the New Year’s Eve. Kim Jong-Un, North Korean leader, conducted nuclear tests with unclear purposes. China pumps money in the economy to prevent a collapse in the Stock Market. What is the purpose to know all this? Does it increase your knowledge? Does it raise your awareness? Does it help you think better? Does it make you more productive? Does it improve your life? The short answer is no. An extensive and reasoned response follows.

Information overload can be a major brake for your personal productivity, but it doesn’t make you procrastinate tasks. Procrastination isn’t caused by the information itself, but by its excessive consumption. The information is everywhere, but nobody forces you to consume it all. It’s the feeling that “you’re missing something” that creates your wish to be everywhere.

Much of the information bombarding us is what we usually call news. According to Rolf Dobelli, author of The Art of Thinking Clearly, news is to the mind the equivalent of what sugar is to the body: “something appetizing, easy to digest, and highly destructive in the long term”.

He argues that there are at least three important reasons why we should stop reading, listening and watching the news.

First, our brain reacts disproportionately to the news. We are stimulated by shocking and striking news related to people, while the news containing complex or somewhat abstract information bore us. The media know this, of course, so they provide us especially striking news. The more exaggerated and sensationalized, the better. At the end of the day, the media needs its audience to make the companies buy advertising spaces inserted between the news. As a result, any slightly complex and profound subject is ruled out, it doesn’t matter how much it may help us understand better the world we live in.

Second, the vast majority of the news is irrelevant and, therefore, a waste of time. Considering the news you consumed last year (10,000 news, on average), how many of them improved your life, career or business? Some probably did, but the amount is ridiculous in comparison to the time invested. This makes the consumption of all those news not worthy at all.

Finally, the news represent a huge loss of your productivity. It is estimated that, on average, we spend half a day in a week consuming news, one way or another. Imagine how many interesting things you could do if you had an extra half-day each week.

I would add another reason, such as the fact that the news is usually edited in a very subjective manner, in a bundle of color and form that interests the most to the media providing it. They are not exactly free from prejudice and bias.

We must choose carefully where we place our attention, because we are in a world with too many distractions. What do you think? Would you be able to live without being attached to the news?

Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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