Do you suffer from click tangents? How to get on a high quality, low information diet.

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert Simon

The first time I read about a low information diet was in one of my favorite books The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. Tim talks about cultivating selective ignorance by ignoring news in general.  It took me a while to adopt this philosophy, but living just outside of Washington DC, it’s become enjoyable ignoring the news, with a US Congress that has basically become a circus of bought and paid for fools, on both sides of the aisle.

I’m sure many may push back on this idea saying that they need to keep up on business news for their job or for the concern that they may come off as uninformed on current world affairs.

So, instead of ignoring all news,  I am going to share my strategy for ignoring 24/7 world news outlets and, at the same time, improve the quality of information that’s relevant, and most importantly, enjoyable for you.

1.  Ignore the major news outlets. All of them. Everywhere.

If this is a diet, then most major news sites are potato chips. Little distractions and pieces of news that you click on and 30 minutes later you forgot what you were doing.  These include those little feature articles at the bottom of news sites with fascinating tidbits of information that you just have to click on. As an ad guy, I can tell you many of those articles are bought and paid for and really don’t have any useful information that cannot be found elsewhere from a better quality source.

Even with my efforts to ignore them, these types of stories occasionally still find me, primarily through cookies in my browser. Next thing you know I’m clicking through 10 slides about some useless tidbit of information that has nothing to do with what I’m working on or any entertainment value.

I still find myself occasionally wandering off on what I call “click tangents.” .Take a look at my browsing record and you can even see that the link I clicked on regarding inexpensive places to live was a paid link.  If you start at the bottom you can see I was reading an article about Apple’s deal with China Mobile and was distracted by one of those boxes with eight pieces of fun and interesting news tailored specifically to my browsing history aka cookies.  Then I continue to click through 10 consecutive slides that also were on pages with ads tailored to my browsing history.

While this may be effective for clients promoting products it’s certainly not effective for getting anything done personally.

2.  Quality Content Curation

Recently I shared my rant on cutting your cable bill using content curation for TV viewing. The same strategy can be applied to the entire web, including what you listen to in the car or on your phone. This can all be  accomplished with two simple tools RSS feeds (reading) and podcasts (listening).

Get an RSS feed reader.  RSS now stands for really simple syndication. In a nutshell it allows you to follow a  distraction free list of the most knowledgeable sources on any topic. I’m going to just recommend one feed reader here (Feedly)  but there are many out there. Once your feed reader is set up you can search for top bloggers authors and writers on nearly any topic.

I like Feedly as it allows you to easily group and filter the blogs and writers you follow. They also have smartphone apps and apps that work right in your browser for Google Chrome, Safari and others.  They also make it easy to un-follow or quickly add feeds directly from websites.  Once your feed reader is installed, just type in the  feed or topic you’re looking for and click subscribe.

You can organize feeds into simple groups.

  • personal finance

  • comedy

  • photography

  • technology

  • cooking

  • fitness

Now you’ve created high-quality curated news that’s designed just for you. You can completely skip over reading about Congress, the latest budget battles or Middle Eastern oil negotiations. Major news outlets just shovel the stuff out and are trying to deliver lots of content surrounded by distractions.

If you’re just starting out, go slow. Just follow a few of your favorite bloggers or writers.  Avoid the major news outlets and other (firehose style) feeds that dump five or six articles per day into your feed.  These will get old fast and you’ll be right back where you started with too much content and not enough quality. Search for quality content from writers who post maybe one or two well thought out articles per week.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Tim Ferriss

Mr. Money Mustache

AJ Leon  The Pursuit of Everything

The Minimalists

If you do most of your reading on a tablet or smartphone, I would recommend the app Flipboard.  You can search and follow the same writers there.  The app uses a fantastic touch interface that is perfect for these devices.

3. Quality mobile curation for your listening pleasure

Once you dump the news outlets, it’s time to get rid of their radio broadcast counterparts including all the chucklehead DJs deep diving into completely useless topics. If you like to get your newly curated content on the go, walking or in your car and don’t want to be one of those people stepping off curves or worse because they’re looking at twitter on their phone then it’s time to rediscover podcasts. Podcasts used to be a pain in the ass. You would have to download them or transfer them to your iPod then try to sync the whole mess and go back in and delete stuff.

This has all changed with smartphones. Just search for a highly rated podcast app in your phone’s app store. You’ll be amazed at all of the high quality content on virtually any topic delivered commercial free largely with the exception of a few sponsor mentions. You’ll never hear another law firm or next day loan ad again.  I’ve been using the new podcast app in iOS7 and I will never listen to the radio in the same way. Here are a few podcasts I’ve discovered and I’m just getting started:

Ted talks audio –  Ideas worth spreading

Blogcast FM with Srinivas Rao

The Nerdist podcast

This American Life Podcast

Once you download the podcast app, you can search under any topic or try out a few that interest you from the popular by genre list. I recommend downloading a few recent episodes while on Wi-Fi so when you want to go for a run or a long drive they’ll be loaded up and ready to go and won’t run up your wireless bill.

Good god, I ramble on, time to wrap this up.

Simplify your life and avoid click tangents by putting some heavy-duty quality filters on any information that comes into your world.

  1. Avoid the major news outlets. They profit from sensationalizing bad news that has little effect on your day-to-day life.

  2. Curate what you do read with a high quality RSS Feed Reader.

  3. Stop listening to chuckleheads and news on the radio. Subscribe to a few high quality podcasts.

  4. Avoid similar distractions on Facebook and Twitter by using RSS feeds and podcasts.

Keep living lean….The Frug

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