How To Kick Information Addiction In 4 Steps
Instantly I knew I was in trouble.
The icy stare across the living room was enough to send me the message that I needed to cease and desist, RIGHT NOW. The wife had had about enough of me staring at the screen and said, in a flat tone like the calm before the storm,
“If you love your iPhone so much, why don’t you marry it?”
Well that was a bit dramatic, I thought. As I was bracing for the eye of the storm, the baby’s cry broke up the tense air. Never was I so happy to wipe baby’s poop and change his diaper.
It’s the way I’m feeling I just can’t deny-/-But I’ve gotta let it go-/-We found love in a hopeless place-/-We found love in a hopeless place...
About three years ago, when We Found Love seemed to be playing endlessly on the radio, my then girlfriend and I drove out to the eastern-most tip of Long Island, where there is a lighthouse standing at a small rocky cliff edge that had been formed over the year by the corrosive waves.
“We found love in a hopeless place,” the ear-worm sure was fitting given the environment, I thought, as we walked around from the grassy side to the rocky side of the lighthouse.
Curiously, there was this ginormous concrete box sitting diagonally amidst the rocky side. Feeling adventurous, we both climbed in and I told her,
“We’ve had our ups and downs, and I imagine we’ll also have more ups and downs in our future. Whenever we feel we’ve lost our way, we can look for the lighthouse and remember how we started. Will you marry me?”
“Does that mean we’ll have to make this 6-hour round trip every weekend?” she said.
That was a rare moment of clarity. My younger self had thrown down some serious wisdom at my elder self, opposite to how I usually feel.
It seemed like the perfect time to visit the lighthouse again. Thankfully I took pictures that day. 😅😅😅
I mean, clearly this is the MOST ROMANTIC SPOT ON EARTH to propose, right?
(My elder self is now shaking his head at my younger self.)😓😓😓
Back to the icy death stare from hell, her point was loud and clear: I was addicted to information. My time and attention were spent dis-proportionally at the endless pursuit of consuming information. I needed to course correct.
Then it hit me:
Why not put forth a plan that both takes advantage of my addiction and reduces its negative impacts through implementation?
The plan needed to deal with the core elements that formed the Hurricane: time and attention. But first I needed to start with
I was curious at my own curiosity.
So I asked myself a series of whys to understood where the desires came from and the dynamics of my behaviors.
First Why — Why was I looking for information online endlessly? To satisfy my needs to know.
Second Why — Why do I need to know? Because I want to be smarter.
Third Why — Why do I want to be smarter? Because I desire to be successful.
My behavior loops between the first why and the second why. It did not go to a deeper level. If only I could extend my bad habit of consuming information to feel smarter into a habit of using information to be smarter.
I devised this four-step plan to modify my addiction.
- Step 1 — Separate the ideas into actionables or thinkables. Discard the thinkables.
Separating out the ideas provided a level of analysis that gave me multiple doses of motivation.
The simplification afterward removed distractions and also gave me peace and space in mind to dedicate to my plan.
- Step 2 — Categorize the actionable ideas I thought made sense for my situation.
By diving deeper into a self-analysis, I became mindful of my own personal traits, strengths and weaknesses in various areas. To set small and achievable personal goals, I needed to have a clear understanding of what I want to focus on so I could apply these actionable ideas.
- Step 3 — Flashcard the actionables so I could group memorize them.
Grouping similar ideas speeds up the memorization process for me. Remembering ideas also saved me a lot of time previously wasted by pulling out my smartphone to Google something.
- Step 4 — Rank the actionables’ usefulness based on if I felt they helped me in practice.
I took action by making an app featuring these four steps.
With real actions taken plus my own experiences, the quantified information existing in my mind became real knowledge for me and my mind is in a better state as a result of it.
Time + Attention = Relationship Rehab
In addition to the plan to modify my addiction, I also needed to modify my other behaviors to create more time and attention for my relationship rehab.
I needed to be as efficient as possible to minimize my time usage for my own ventures. Organization, simplification, and focus were the three pillars to practice to achieve the efficiency goal.
Ability to focus also helped to improve my attention. To be able to switch focus on a dime when the wife or baby needed attention from what I was doing and refocus on them without distractions.
- Meditate while taking showers, washing dishes, and folding laundry.
Because I have no time to meditate, utilizing the time during showering, washing dishes and folding laundry are the closest thing to meditation. I have no distractions other than moving my hands around, for which I have developed an automatic sequence of folding, cleaning myself, and dishes.
My mind can think deeply and explore the connections to other ideas that I might otherwise not be able to do with outside interference. It also allowed me to sharpen my focusing skills — the willpower to not let the present sidetrack my long term goals.
- Utilize play time with baby as reward for completing goals.
I have experienced a series of setbacks during making the app, even though I have kept my goals small and within reach. But whether the goals were deemed a success or failure, I always reward myself in small ways after completion.
I selected rewards that are conducive to creating value in the future instead of instant gratification types, e.g., eating sweets or buying something that helped me train my willpower.
- Read books in front of the baby.
Because I needed to keep an eye on the baby, reading an actual book, not a Kindle, demonstrated a good habit in front of baby to copy from and it also increased my productivity.
- Observe others’ merit, appreciate their kindness and practice gratefulness.
It is much easier to be grateful by looking at what I have instead of focusing on what I do not have. The grateful mindset starts with appreciating the tiniest moments.
I will always remember the time when the baby was fumbling around with his ABC booklet. When he noticed I was staring, he tilted his head and went to look for the book I was reading at the time. Locating the blue book sitting on the couch, he struggled to climb onto the couch, picked it up, struggled to slide down from the couch and walked back to me to hand me the book. Opening the back cover, he pointed at the author’s picture and said “Dahhh!”
“Yes that is Eric Ries, he’s really smart that’s why daddy is reading this book trying to learn a few things.” I said.
“DAHHH!!” He yelled louder, pointing at the picture again.
“Hm, yes he is a good-looking man” I said.
Looking at me, the baby walked back to his ABC booklet and continued to fidget with it.
Yes, the moments.
It was not until after I finished building the app that I realized the two final layers of whys.
Fourth Why — Why do I want to be successful? To be able to take care of my parents, my sister, my wife and most importantly be a good role model for my son.
Fifth Why — Why do I want to take care of my immediate family? Because I am grateful for their presence in my life, and for their love.
No longer am I lost anymore.