This season of my life, that is, the last six months, has brought a mountain of consumption. It started when our family moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina. We began spending gobs of money to move our belongings and settle into our home (just look at this spending report if you don’t believe me).
We bought a new dog and subsequently bought the related accoutrement: water bowls, food, shots, kennel visits, Kong toys, cages, leashes, chew sticks, and rawhide bones, amongst other necessary pet purchases.
We bought a trip to Disney and had a fabulous time, but in addition to the many dollars we spent, we stuffed our faces with food and drink for a week.
Since we’ve begun to work at home, Mr. ThreeYear and I have increased our food consumption. We have the weight gain to show for it.
It’s Not *That* Type of Consumption
There’s a different type of consumption going on, as well. I have been mindlessly consuming every printed piece of garbage I can pour into my brain. Romance novels (a particular vice) and crime thrillers–I average about one trashy book every two days (I read fast). Instagram feeds. Twitter. Facebook, which I occasionally stalk. Personal finance posts. My phone is in hand for multiple hours a day, according to my tracker (I read on it through the Kindle app, too).
I’ve taken steps to slow the trickle of information flooding into my brain, but at this juncture, I’m gorging on information like I’m gorging on Christmas cookies.
Ever seen a wreck about to happen, and you’re powerless to stop it?
I need to read less. Consume less. Produce more. Quiet the noise.
I need a consumption diet.
The truth is, we forget much of what we read and consume. All of those books, even good ones? Largely forgotten, 24 hours later, if I don’t take the time to review the information. According to the Atlantic:
In the internet age, recall memory—the ability to spontaneously call information up in your mind—has become less necessary. It’s still good for bar trivia, or remembering your to-do list, but largely… what’s called recognition memory is more important. “So long as you know where that information is at and how to access it, then you don’t really need to recall it.”Julie Beck, The Atlantic
As of 2009, almost ten years ago, people saw an astounding 100,000 words per day (it’s easily double that today). How much of that changes our life, or sticks? In my case, very little. It’s simply feeding the beast.
How can I get more from what I consume? One answer is to consume less, way less. Or, space out what you read and review it, in a journal or with a friend (or in a blog post). That’s because your memories “get reinforced the more you recall them.”
I Know What I Need But…
Though I’m in the belly of the beast, so to speak, I know what’s going on. I can metacognate about my lack of self-control around consuming information but I’m having a hard time making changes to my behavior.
It’s because I’m weary, after a long year of change. In the months leading up to our move, I worked a ton at two different jobs. We had the insane stress and strain of selling a house, moving 1000 miles away, and buying a new home in a different state. Although I’m not working right now, the strain of the move, getting settled, and navigating the endless pediatrician/dentist/dermatologist/therapist/school counselor/IEP/504 meetings and appointments has worn me down.
The kids are alright. Mr. ThreeYear is alright (albeit also weary and stressed from a busy year-end at work). Lucy the dog is alright (although in prime puppy months-arghghghghg). I am alright. I just need to find a way to get unweary. And I don’t think all the consumption is helping.
So, I’m going to do the same thing I do to lose weight. I’m going on a diet.
The Benefits of Less
Srinivas Rao, writing in Medium, argues that excessive consumption causes decision fatigue. She makes the point that every time we click on an article to read, we make a decision. Every time we “like” something on Facebook or Insta, we make a decision. Every time we read or reply to an email we make a decision. Though these small decisions seem minor, they whittle away our ability to maintain willpower for the bigger, more important decisions we should be making.
In Deep Work, which I read last summer and barely remember, Cal Newport makes the case that sustained focus on one thing allows you to be truly creative, rather than switching your focus from one thing to the next, which can permanently destroy your attention span. He’s not on social media, no surprise.
Blogger Cait Flanders has made a point of limiting her consumption of social media, and many bloggers and authors take a month off in the summer or the end of the year in order to clear their minds and give themselves time to step back.
When You Can’t Beat ‘Em…Trick ‘Em
I know myself, and the chances of me not reading are slim to none, so I’m going to trick myself into reading less. I’m going to the library and picking up some non-trash books that take me longer to read. I’m going to space that reading out (if it’s not as entertaining, I do a lot more reading over time).
I’m blocking out large chunks of time next week to write. To produce, not consume. I’ve got two posts written and scheduled for the future (a first!!) and I’m planning to write a few more before we head out for our Christmas break.
When we leave for the beach next week, I’m going to follow a loose schedule that encourages less mindless scrolling and more outside time. Walks on the beach in the morning for the whole family (I’m a dictator that way), very limited screen time, putting my phone away. Maybe I could just not take it? That’s probably not realistic.
But we all need to give ourselves information breaks. And I’ve been feeling the flood of TMI for some time now.
A New Year
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is always a good time for me to stop and be quiet for a bit. To reflect and allow myself mental space to plan and dream. While I’m not swearing off social media completely, I’m going on a social media diet. I’m going to give myself a mental break to clear my head and get ready for the new year. I’m pretty excited.
What are your plans over the holidays?