How to tweak your apps to deal with information anxiety

Information anxiety is the ailment of this digital age. We’re living in the digital world where one cannot consume the content created within the same day. You need to catch up with the fast moving landscape around you and at the same time have a life outside of work. This can be overwhelming at times.

These are the few app tweaks, I did to deal better with information anxiety.

Email

Every unread email is a psychic weight. Naturally, It is the first thing that you need to gain control of.

  • Unsubscribe from all the blogs and switch to a RSS reader where ever possible.

  • Use Github notification center instead of subscribing by email alert for the repos you watch.

  • Email list is the key medium to get your focus. That’s the reason marketers consider email lists to be gold. But not all the emails are worthy. Ruthlessly mark SPAM when you receive an unsolicited email. By doing so, You’re making others life easier by saving few seconds for them. This is how you contribute back to community knowledge.

  • Disable service notification emails for all the trivial activities. Twitter’s email alert for new followers, direct message. Medium-Quora what’s trending are all examples of it. You’re better off without those engagement emails.

  • Email is an Aysnc communication medium. So, turn off all the mobile notification for it.

I receive emails, if and only if, I make financial transactions. With these changes, I get about 4-5 emails/week. I archive them once I read them. Inbox Zero isn’t that difficult at all.

Twitter

I’ve said it earlier that twitter is my third place on the internet. This is my most tweaked medium. In following-unfollowing a bunch of people, tailoring my timeline as per my needs I learnt a few things.

Follow
Cut down on the number of people you follow. Though there is no optimal number, keep the following count manageable.

  • Follow people who have been there and done that. They are the ones that make things, have insights to share about them.

  • Don’t let twitter be your echo chamber. If you’re a bootstrapper follow a VC like a16z. Follow them for their perspective on things.

  • In general, follow the real people who are interesting

Unfollow

  • Unfollow all the brands and companies. Most of their tweets will be promotional in nature. Those who work there will retweet the major announcement. Also, few other companies use twitter as a support medium.

  • Unfollow people who are constantly sharing just the buff.ly links. They are into some sort of brand building exercise than sharing something interesting.

  • Unfollow meetup groups, conference. They tweet rarely, it’s not worth following them for that once-in-a-month tweets.

  • Unfollow news channels since everything is breaking news for them. They are more focused on writing click baity titles that garner views than delivering a quality news. Rely on the community’s retweet to know the breaking news. An example of what’s wrong with these sites

Contrary to the popular productivity tip, I check twitter in the morning.

RSS reader

RSS reader should be the aggregator for all your your blog feeds and podcasts. Since you don’t give away your email. You can be sure of spam free content. They won’t clog your email inbox and can be read leisurely.

Aggregator

I particularly like Scott Hanselman’s trusted aggregators

I used to have 1,000 blogs that I would read. And then who’s the greatest blog reader in the world? It’s Robert Scoble, he’s always talking about how many blogs that he reads. So I finally decided, ‘I’m not Robert Scoble.’ He’s a freak, and it’s not healthy to keep up on that many blogs. So you know what I do? I read his blog. So I took the thousand blogs that I read and I pick five link blogs. I found my Scobles. And I read those five blogs and they give me an aggregated news. It’s like why we listen to the BBC news on the hour, because it tells us what’s going on so I don’t have to watch all the other news. Find your aggregator inside of the company.

A few trusted aggregators I follow on twitter.

  • @codepo8 : for general updates on technical things
  • @kentcdodds: for anything related to JS
  • @BenedictEvans: he send weekly round up of interesting tech happening of the week.

Reading

Every article you read should be considered as part of your reading habit. So, have a modest reading goal. Goodreads challenge of reading 6 books per year is good enough for me. Having an unrealistic goal like reading 36 books will add extra pressure and wont’ do any good.

  • Develope a taste for quality content. Skip the rest quickly. If you don’t find the article interesting within first two paragraphs, skip it. Chances are less for it to turn useful when you are done.

  • Don’t bother clicking on the link that has click bait-y titles unless it is heavily shared by the people.

  • Avoid clicking on the links that are within the pay wall. but post from hbr.org are of good standard.

  • No other medium vets links like twitter. Number of retweets, replies, likes, and trust on the person who has shared, are all the indicator of the quality of content. If you find something useful, retweet. Support the good content. It’s a good karma.

Notifications

Cut down on the number of notifications you receive each day. Turn on mobile notification only for the real time apps like telegram. Rest all can and should wait. News app like NDTV, economic times will keep sending notification. Being disturbed by that many notifications through out the day isn’t healthy. Similarly, don’t allow websites to send you notification. Not all news is a breaking news for you.

You don’t have to check Medium, Quora, Reddit, hacker news everyday to keep up. Rather use very few platforms that you can optimize to get maximum value for your time spend. Optimizing is the way of life. Only those who find the inner balance between creation and consuming would survive stress free in this digital world.