Focus, avoid social clutter, get your time back

In Hagakure, there is a saying: “The more the water, the higher the boat.” I love it because it makes sense for a lot of things in life. Except for one: information overload.

Unfollowing is the new black. It has been a few weeks now that I’ve decided to clean my news feeds. RSS feeds, Twitter followings, Facebook likes, etc. Everything had to go through some heavy cleaning for me to breathe a little.

Don’t have time to watch the Instagram Stories that matter most to you? Unfollow the accounts you always skip.

Your Twitter feed is a mess of links, pictures and retweets? Unfollow those who tweet too much, mute them, disable retweets. Keep only those you cherish, only those you want to read every time.

Can’t seem to remember where you left off your Tumblr feed? Maybe you have too much going on in the first place.

The tipping point

I enjoy articles from The Atlantic’s City Lab. So I ended up adding the RSS feed to my subscriptions list. One day I noticed 104 unread articles in my RSS reader, and I said to myself: “I will never read this.” That day my behaviour with news and social media changed.

I have two or three favourite newsletters. If I want to read them, I cannot afford to spend time with less interesting ones. So I unsubscribed to most of them, because leaving them in your inbox “for later” is not a solution. At one point I had to stop pretending, and start getting rid of the noise, even if this noise sounds like music. I can only spend time on my favourite music.

That’s what we do. We pretend. We surround ourselves with fancy accounts to follow, to make us feel important or smart. Sometimes we just follow accounts that fit the character we pretend to be. Side effect: News you care about get dissolved in the noise.

The less, the merrier

The more accounts you follow, the less time you have for each of them. Ask yourself this: Which of them are essential to you?

You like cooking tips? Then keep one or two publications/accounts about it, not a dozen like you have right now. Just keep the bests. And follow them in only one network. One app. Do not follow the same account on different platforms, unless there is an explicit value in doing so.

You like news? Just keep a few different news accounts but avoid redundancy. When you scroll your Twitter feed without reading it, it means it’s time to do some unfollowing.

It all comes down to this: Is it better to subscribe to ten great newsletters and scan through five or six, reading only two or three? Or is it better to subscribe to the best three only and give them proper attention?

I always look to improve the quality of my different news feeds. A few months back I was wondering what new accounts I could follow, what new pages I could add. Now I just search for those I can remove. The value I lose by unfollowing some, I gain by having more focus on those remaining.

This applies to every newsfeed, every app and every subscription. It is easy to drown under a mass of good information. If you select only what is great for you, you manage to float and catch your breath.