We are starting a small series of articles on the topic “Cyber Minimalism”. In them, you will find detailed instructions in order to remove useless factors that take a lot of strength and energy from your life.
In the time that I have been writing this article, I have triple-checked Twitter and double-checked my mail. Replied to four emails. Once I looked at Slack and sent an SMS to two people. Then I was sucked into YouTube once, for which I spent about half an hour of my working time.
Instead of working for 20 minutes, I constantly interrupted myself ten times. All these distractions are extra time to finish this article. But they also lead astray all my thoughts, worsening the quality of the text. After that, it requires more checks and improvements. They make me nervous because most of the time I’m distracted I’m worried about not working, and most of the time I’m working I’m worried about missing out on communication, email threads, and updates. Because of them, the process of writing has become less pleasant and more burdensome for the mind.
All these distractions are not only unproductive but also anti-productive. They generate more work.
You can probably handle all of this on your own. But the longer it went on, the worse it got. This is strange because it seems that the ability to concentrate and focus improves with age. But something went wrong.
I started the blog in 2018. And I remember feeling that writing a 1000-word draft was a piece of cake. I just woke up, wrote, and then went to cook breakfast. Around 2019, I noticed that I often became distracted by checking Facebook or email. And in 2020 it already began to resemble a problem.
I felt that I needed to pay attention to my attention and concentrate on concentration. It was something new. It wasn’t something I should have been thinking about since I grew up. But in the past year, these extraneous interruptions have already become permanent. I no longer understood how not to be distracted, and I was ready for anything to prevent this from happening. It felt like I was living in a digital hell where doing something meaningful and important seems inconclusive and impossible in terms of attention.
How do we become prone to mental laziness and weakness
The world changed in the 1950s and 60s. The modern economy has moved from factories and fields to offices. We were used to standing on our feet all day and carrying heavy things to earn one dollar. Now, in the highest-paying jobs, we just have to sit all day.
Our bodies have not yet adapted to such a sedentary lifestyle. It turns out that after sitting all day long, eating buns, and drinking coffee, we do terrible harm to our physical health. As a result, we are seeing an increase in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Our bodies began to fall apart, become too sensitive and work incorrectly.
In order to counter sedentary lifestyles and health problems, we have created a fitness culture. People have realized that if modern life forces you to sit all day and stare at a screen, then you need to set aside some time in the day to lift weights or go for a little jog. This will keep your body healthy, strong, and strong. Running is in vogue. Invented membership in sports clubs. People put on tight uniforms and jumped under the VCR.
Our body is designed in such a way that it needs exercise and some amount of stress, otherwise it will go limp and weaken. And even the simplest things – climbing the stairs, carrying a bag of groceries – will seem difficult or impossible. It turns out that it is these small conscious efforts that keep the body healthy.
At the same time, the removal of stress and tension from the physical body makes it more fragile and weak. Eliminating mental stress and tension from our consciousness also makes it more fragile and weak.
It seems to me that we are on the verge of discovering a similar need for our minds. We need to consciously limit our comfort. We have to force our brains to strain and work to receive information on their own. We need to deprive our attention of the constant stimulation it craves.
The Goals of Cyber Minimalism
Our attention is attacked from four directions. Firstly, there are too many different things around that require attention. And the more you have to pay attention to all sorts of nonsense, the more difficult it is to choose what to focus on, let alone focus on it!
So the first and foremost goal of digital minimalism should be to consciously limit the number of distractions we encounter. In a nutritional diet, the first step is to eat less. So the first step in the attention diet is to consume less information.
But then the question arises: “What should I pay attention to?” And what should you give up on? The spread of unhealthy food has corrupted our bodies. Similarly, the growth of unhealthy information is corrupting our emotions and minds in the 21st century. The second goal of the attention diet is to seek out highly nutritious sources of information and relationships, then build our lives around them.
In fact, the game is called “quality, not quantity.” In a world of endless information and possibilities, you don’t grow by learning or doing more, you grow by being able to properly focus on less.
The principle of the attention diet is similar to the principle of the diet for nutrition – we cut off all categories of consumption for a certain period, tune our body (or mind), get healthier, and then, ideally, after a while we stop craving our old sinful pleasures. It’s worth noting that nutritional diets are notorious for failing beautifully. Some of my personal experience has shown that attention diets are quite effective. But this is still an underexplored territory.
Cyber minimalism involves three steps:
- Correctly identify nutritional information and relationships.
- Get rid of unhealthy information and relationships.
- Develop habits to concentrate more deeply and hold attention longer.
Learning to Distinguish
So how do we define “unhealthy” information and relationships and “nourishing” information and relationships?
Without going into philosophy and without complicating:
- Unhealthy information is unreliable information, useless and unimportant. That is, it does not affect anyone or only a few.
- The unhealthy information is presented briefly, vividly, and emotionally, addictive to such patterns for consumption.
- Nutritional information is reliable information that is useful and likely to be important. Influences you or others to a great extent.
- Nutritional information is not concise, or deliberate, and involves deep reflection and lengthy conclusions.
- Unhealthy relationships are about people/groups of people who barely see each other and/or have little trust in each other. They touch on your weaknesses and constantly make you feel and think about the world around you worse.
- Nutritional connections are about people/groups of people who see each other often and/or trust each other. They make you feel better and they help you grow.
Footnote about sports/entertainment. There is a place for sports and entertainment everywhere. We all need some kind of rest in our free time. I myself love video games. But I understand that if I check Reddit or Twitch 20 times a day, then this is already an unhealthy indulgence in such a hobby. In other words, my infatuation harms me more than it helps. Our goal is to make our hobby work for us, not against us. And then we’ll figure out how to do it.
The attention diet should be emotionally difficult to use. Unhealthy information hooks us primarily because it is pleasant and simple. We develop a low-level addiction to it and begin to use it to quell a lot of our daily stresses and insecurities. Thus, getting rid of unhealthy information will expose a lot of unpleasant emotions, addictions, and habits, and we will suffer for the first few days or even weeks.
The goal here is to force yourself to focus more on what brings value to your life. And if this is difficult for you, then you probably haven’t gotten rid of all the garbage yet.
In the next article, we’ll take a look at the steps for organizing an attention diet in your life.
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