How often do you check your e-mail, Facebook or web stats? Whether you’re a blogger or just discovering the internet, the answer is: probably too much. Information addiction is a disease in the blogging community, and unfortunately I know a lot of good people who are users. I can imagine the mental rationale goes a bit like this:
- Measuring is good.
- Therefore, more measuring is better.
- Therefore, I should check my Digg ranking, AdSense earnings and web traffic every five minutes!
There are two reasons why chronic information checking is a bad idea. The first is the obvious one. If you’re constantly checking your web statistics, how are you going to get any real work done? Last time I checked, viewing your Google Page Ranking adds no value to anyone, so it shouldn’t consume your workday. (This applies for you offline information junkies too!)
The second, subtler reason that information addiction hurts is that it makes you shortsighted. This is the consequence I’d like to focus on, to explain why I went from checking my website stats every day to only once each week.
Day Traders Don’t Make Money
Investing in stocks is about patience and long-term growth, not jumping on the latest pick, according to finance writer Ramit Sethi. Constantly switching between investments to make a quick buck doesn’t work. You may end up losing money when you account for the brokerage fee.
I made a similar realization about running this website about six months ago. At the time I had been checking my website stats once per day. Not as much as some addicts, but it still took about 5-10 minutes of my time. Eight minutes doesn’t seem like much over the course of 24 hours, so I didn’t worry about the time investment.
What really triggered me to stop the daily updates was seeing what it was doing to my morale. I’d have a days where earnings went up and days when they plunged. On the plunge days, I’d start questioning whether I need to take a new direction with my writing the next week. On the up days I’d try to mirror the successful posts, looking for another hit.
It took some time, but eventually I realized: this is insane.
Focusing on daily ups and downs wasn’t just taking eight minutes from my life, it was causing me to be shortsighted. Instead of focusing on long-term strategies for providing value, I was focusing on insignificant fluctuations. There was a bigger cost to information addiction than loss of time.
Kicking the Habit
When I made this realization last summer, I started a 30 Day Trial to check web stats once per week. At this rate, I had enough time to react if a silent error was causing problems with the website, but I didn’t succumb to addiction.
After pursuing a restricted information diet, I’ve found it much easier to focus long-term. When I wasn’t getting constant feedback, my attention could shift to strategies that would build the website over months and years, not days and weeks.
Since going on my initial information diet, here are a few other areas I’ve been considering putting a limit on:
- Weight. I usually weigh myself when I go to the gym. But weight ups and downs can change based on how much you ate the day before or how dehydrated you are. Could a once-per-month weigh in be a better approach?
- News. This might be blasphemy for some people, but what would happen if you only read the news once per week or once each month? You would still get the same information, just with a time delay to prevent overreacting to the emotionally provoking media.
- E-Mail. I only check e-mail once each day. It’s easy to get addicted to your inbox.
- Investments. Instead of checking stocks once a day, what about once a month? If you want to think long-term, you need to make your information flow long-term.
What are some information streams you’d like to limit?