News free


In the vein of lifehacking, I’ve just spent a month news free. Specifically, that means no news on television, no Twitter, no Google Reader. If I were on Facebook, it would’ve meant no Facebook either. Oh hey you know what? It was a pleasure. You know what more? It was a pleasure from day 1. Okay I allowed myself to watch TV shows and listen to podcasts. And sure, there’s news there, but it’s not live and it’s digested.

So what happens when you go news free? Well the first couple of days when I meant to take a break from work, I’d go to my new tab page to click the Reader icon only to find it not there. Oh right, I’d remember: no Reader. So I’d take a walk through the office instead, talk to some co-workers, perhaps get myself a healthy snack. Did I mention I’m also off the sugar? I’m also off the sugar. It’s lifehacking month for me, and it’s really working out too. And that’s it. Without RSS or Twitter feeds to check, I’d do other stuff. Relax more, read more, do nothing, more. I’d look forward to specific podcasts (even though John Siracusa said “nucular” on the most recent one and immediately dropped from 11 to 10 points in my book).

The bottomline is, going news-free was pretty easy and very satisfying. In fact, while I do plan to tweet again and perhaps even open Google Reader once in a while, I’ll be unsubscribing many things. No offense, The Verge, but from now on I’ll only watch your show.

8 thoughts on “News free”

  1. Mark says:

    Impressive. I must say.

    I thought working with WordPress without Twitter would be near impossible.

    I use Twitter very little, but I would say I work more *around* WordPress.

    1. Joen says:

      I’ve always said that news that is worth our attention will bubble to the top and eventually find its way.

      That said, I am in the fortunate situation where I get my fix of WordPress news on a daily basis through work 🙂

  2. James says:

    If you do decide to go back to reading news feeds, skip Google Reader and go straight for Fever. It’s worth every penny. Why? Because it takes your hundreds of feeds and builds a list of the most important news items to read simply based on who’s reporting the same things.

    Imagine knowing that the upcoming WordPress Community Summit is super-important because four of the blogs in your reader are reporting on it, and you didn’t have to read all four posts to find out!

    1. Joen says:

      I appreciate the sentiment, and from a certain point of view it makes a lot of sense.

      What I found out, not reading feeds at all, however, was that I’ve actually missed nearly nothing. Everything that’s important bubbled to the surface despite, and most of those “important” things wasn’t news, but rather stuff that affected people in my life.

      In fact, I’d rather have Fever for Twitter than for RSS.

  3. Nathan says:

    Agreed, impressive.

    I’ve always wanted to give something like this a shot. Being a web developer, I consider wasting time online to be an occupational hazard. I spend more time reading news, journals and blogs than doing any of my other hobbies and its a major distraction while working too. For example, I should be working now 😉 I’ve always imagined that if I could stop reading blog after blog and feed after feed that I’d have more time for the things I enjoy more.

    Question. Does “news” include online content in general, or just news related sites and feeds like the BBC? Would Lifehacker, Ars Technica and Joystiq count as news? I’m just curious how far you went when cutting out online content from your life.

    Also, how did you achieve such a feat!? Good ol self control? One of these new fangled productivity apps?

    1. Joen says:

      I can definitely recommend it. Really.

      So obviously you make your own news. For me, that meant cutting away everything that distracted me. So under the banner of “News”, yes, that would include Lifehacker, Ars Technica, BBC, every online site like that. Also, as mentioned, Twitter and Google Reader.

      I would watch the occasional YouTube video, and I would watch TV shows at home. But otherwise, no news at all. I later learned that Google Drive had launched in the mean time, something I’d be all over otherwise. You know what? I didn’t miss a thing. In fact, now that I’m off the detox, I’m still not opening Google Reader. If I feel an urge to get some tech news I’ll manually visit The Verge and scroll through it: no unread count in sight!

      You could try a news-free day, or a news free week if you’re reluctant to take the full-on plunge.

      Distraction free software isn’t working for me. Re: productivity in general, I’m not sure how impacted my productivity was before and after this detox — I feel like I’m getting the same amount of work done. The big difference is that mentally, I feel like I have more hours in the day now, and I have more energy.

      While I’m sure Google Reader is not conducive to your productivity, I don’t think you can expect productivity to suddenly boost by cutting that out.

      Productivity techniques that work for me include:

      – have a physical office that has some distance to your home
      – work early mornings
      – assume a task is super easy and that you are plenty qualified
      – start anywhere
      – take breaks on a sofa and leave your smartphone
      – learn to distinguish between actual productivity and the sensation of productivity, for example: replying to email is usually not being productive

      1. Sounds great, especially the productivity techniques!

        But, don’t you feel the need to keep up to date with world events? To be able to have an informed opinion on them?

        (Just playing devils advocate a little here)

      2. Joen says:

        I never fear the devils advocate. Especially not when the devil is “news”.

        I’ve never felt the need to keep up to date on world events. Sure, I’ve felt like I should (because that’s what you do), but never the need. Which made this month all the more easy.

        In fact, the philosophy I’ve adopted is: if the news is important enough, it will find me. This is especially true now that I’m back on Twitter. But no, I have no need to search it out.

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