They feel so good going in.
Email, blogs, books, videos, podcasts, social networks, TV, etc. They all bury the pain of real work and provide us a much-needed escape. We promise ourselves, only ten more minutes.
It can begin as productive learning, researching or connecting. We hope, maybe that next bit of info will contain the magic answer I’ve been hoping for. It might make it all better. Easier.
But as with real drugs, we can overdose. Even on the stuff intended for good.
I’m a repeat offender
I do this far too often and it happened again yesterday (November 6, 2012, election day).
While attempting to tackle a critical item on my to-do list I got distracted. Reading an email led to an interesting article, which led to subscribing to a new blog, which led to watching some fascinating videos.
Distraction is bad enough, but I let it go too far.
After several hours of information consumption my brain was fried and I didn’t get anything else done. I felt frustrated, uncreative and drained. Research shows my symptoms aren’t unique.
First step, acknowledge
I’m a learner by nature so I love information which inspires me or can make me better. I also tackle things with intensity, so overdosing is a tough battle. It’s easy for me to get sucked into this stuff.
Since leadership development and growth begin with self awareness, I’ll start there. Here are a few reasons this happens to me. Perhaps you can relate to some of them.
- I don’t want to start. Starting anything new is difficult. The resistance is at its strongest and ideas are quickly dismissed. If I don’t start, my fears of failure or success will never be realized. It’s this downward-spiral, toilet bowl thinking which paralyzes us and draws our attention elsewhere. Avoid it. Just start things.
- I’m uncomfortable with being stuck. Doing anything creative (i.e. leadership, solving interesting problems) is hard. It requires clear thinking and the ability to organize where there was previously disorder. Getting stuck can feel like failing before the work is even done. Success comes when we remain in the discomfort and keep at it.
- I’m being lazy. Checking email or reading an article is easier than writing something original. It’s easier to read someone else’s organized thoughts than to organize my own. It’s easier to read about solving problems than it is to do the hard work to solve them. Laziness isn’t just physical – it’s also about avoiding emotional labor.
- I’ve lost focus. In The Inner Game of Work (affiliate link), Timothy Gallwey goes into detail about how we can all practice being focused. I found it interesting that we sabotage ourselves in two ways: we try too hard or not enough. Trying too hard results in stress and anxiety while not trying leads to boredom and opens the door for distraction.
- I’ve opted for short term pleasure. It’s infinitely more important for me to achieve deep understanding by writing and thinking, than to constantly ingest the next best thing. But since the former requires more work, these little shots of information are a quick fix. This dopamine-induced cycle favors short-term gratification over long-term. We always have the choice.
Question: How have you overdosed on information and why? What have you done to combat it? Please feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to read your thoughts.