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How to stay informed without compromising on focus and productivity 

How to stay informed without compromising on focus and productivity 

The news is increasingly becoming one of the biggest obstacles to productive focus. 

If you’re a creator who makes entering an effective “flow state” your mission, the multi billion dollar media industry is precisely opposed to that. 

Instead, they want you “engaged”. 

Not creating value, but consuming it.

Clicking, scrolling and page views. 

To accomplish their engagement goal – pulling you off your agenda and into theirs – they leverage the tools of hype, click-bait, outrage, schadenfreude and fear. 

Most of all – and most insidiously – the news media leverages your deep desire to stay informed. You are culturally programmed (as we all are) with the belief that news consumption is semi-productive. You’ve been trained to believe that staying “up-to-date” is a virtue. 

The problem is that it’s true: Democracy itself requires an informed citizenry. The news business manipulates this fact, stretching and distorting it beyond imagination. Having the right opinions at dinner parties has become a cultural, tribal signaling game. Every issue is presented as a scandal. Every scandal is urgent and might effect you. 

I personally fell into the perfect storm of toxic news engagement in late 2017…

As an entrepreneur, the subject of taxation is pretty near and dear. It affects me, it affects my employees, it affects the financial models that determine how my business scales. Naturally, I was glued to my devices and clicked every headline. 

The few months that the US Congress, then The Senate, then Congress again (etc etc) were debating the proposed tax bill were like a rollercoaster. I read the news every day, discussed the import of the latest with my entrepreneur friends. It all felt stressful, urgent and exhilarating. 

In the end, a bill was signed. I felt empty.

I realized I had put dozens and dozens of hours of my time into following the progress of the tax bill… as though knowing how the “sausage was made” was somehow critical to my personal affairs. 

The truth is, the bill was signed and it didn’t matter one iota how closely I followed it’s progress. I had less than zero input. All I was doing was passively consuming content and helping news sites sell pay-per-impression ads.

All I really needed to know was the final details, and how it impacted me. I scheduled a single meeting with my tax attorney and accountant… and realized that I could have entirely switched off for the entire process. 

Imagine what else I could have done with all that time. And with all that energy. 

Entrepreneurs aiming to produce a big impact – and reap big rewards – need to consciously unplug from the news. 

Creation – of value, of art, of impact – is diametrically opposed to consumption. 

Especially the algorithmically optimized, outrage inducing kind of consumption the news media uses to fuel their bottom line. 

So why not disconnect entirely?

If you’re like me, you want to stay informed – you want to be a good democratic citizen – but you want your focus and productivity back. 

ENTER THE WIKIPEDIA NEWS DIET

My life changed when I discovered Wikipedia’s Current Events Portal. 

Here’s a website you can check in a minute or two to get the day’s high-level, global headlines. Objective, fact based and hype free. No click bait. No op-ed blogs.

If you want to stay informed and you value a daily does of news, make this your one and only current affairs pit stop. 

You’ll be astounded by how little actually happens each day. 

If was only after making this site my news ritual that I realized how distorted the news has made my view of the world. My sense of an acceleration of disastrous events – that the world is unraveling – all of it vanished as I realized that really, not much is going on day to day. 

If something important happens – something that effects you – you’ll find out when it hits the Current Events page. You can dig deeper and find out more if needed. But most of the time, you’re fine.

No need to consume any content. 

Go back to creating.

13 Comments

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  1. Oh my, thanks so much Peter. Yes and yes – yes, the news was screwing with me, and yes I wanted to say informed. What’s interesting is this page has actual news, not adrenaline news, as I call it.

  2. Thank you for that tip, Peter! I found I felt guilty either way…I was either shirking my civic duty or consuming an ever-increasing amount of social noise. Whew! Nice to put them both down. Still, for those who feel like they MUST do something (if they only knew what) my I suggest the Americans of Conscience Checklist? Three Sundays a month, I receive an email digest of doable actions to pick from with every attempt made to check facts and put forth doable actions. Some days I find even that overwhelming, but most of the time I enjoy the practical optimism, the thing I’d RATHER feel than guilty

    https://jenniferhofmann.com/home/weekly-action-checklist-democrats-independents-republicans-conscience/

  3. Great read as always, and I share the sentiment!
    As a Aussie, I use http://www.abc.net.au/news/ which is our government broadcaster. Weighted, rational content, a quick read (2 minutes at breakfast) and no ads!
    Now I must go off and achieve a small goal!!

  4. I agree with your point completely. I have been a news/political junkie for decades and have realized the same thing.
    I’ve got a problem however with the Wikipedia page just like I have a problem with the “fact-checking” websites. Who checks the fact-checkers? For instance, there is not a word about the abuse of power scandal hearing with Peter Strzok. Wikipedia is burying the story just as the rest of the liberal media is. Unfortunately, remaining informed means always being skeptical of outlets that peddle news. That means having more than one source.
    Thanks for the always-great content.

    1. Hey Arnie, thanks for commenting. I guess at the end of the day we all have to decide how much content is “enough”. Does following that story closely effect you, your agency to make change/impact as an entrepreneur?

      If so, then it’s worth digging deeper. If not then maybe it’s worth ignoring.

  5. Peter, great thoughts. I’d love to hear a bit more about the balance between consciously unplugging (to focus on business success) and researching for innovation; as I think that is key for continued growth.

    1. I agree. This piece was mainly focused on news media consumption. I doubt many entrepreneurs are doing much valuable research with News and Social media specifically. Talking to a customer > reading articles. Finding actual market research sources > reading articles. I could go on .. 😀

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