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Breaking Away from Breaking News

I regularly assess and reassess how I’m interacting with the news—not only when, where, and how I’m consuming it, but its various effects on me as well. It’s an ongoing battle, finding the balance of being informed without being overwhelmed. It seems like it’s becoming something of an annual thing for me (here are my thoughts from 2017 and 2016), so I’m sharing some adjustments I’ve made for 2018 that are working so far. And no, it’s not quitting Facebook—I quit years ago. (I still can’t bring myself to give up Instagram. Maybe next year.)

I’ve maintained my zero-push alert policy and adamantly stand behind it. If you need some extra convincing that this could be a good move for you, Slate ran a dizzying article last year about push alerts from the New York Times. Having no push notifications from any platform—email, Slack, various news alerts on my phone (except the weather, which I can’t figure out how to turn off)—has allowed me to stay more focused and also keep some control on information overload.

And yet, something was still a little off in my approach, and I was often still starting my day overwhelmed. So, I didn’t really shift much of the how I was consuming news and media, but I did slightly change the when.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been refraining from logging into Twitter and Slack right away when I start working in the morning.

Instead, I take the time to go through my emails and take in a few general daily newsletters and higher education ones. I’m never quite at inbox zero, but I like to get to zero unread emails before jumping into the news. Both Slack and Twitter provide a lot of information and updates at once and trying to juggle all the new incoming information just doesn’t work for me.

I view the daily newsletters as more of a print-type form of news. It’s a fixed snapshot, rather than a continually updated source of information. I find that they give me a great overview of issues that I should be paying attention to, usually unaccompanied by the constant yammering of opinions that crowd news on social media. Plus, it’s like I’m crossing one thing off my checklist before I dive into things and changing to-dos into to-dones is a fantastic day to kick off the day.

And I don’t feel uninformed. I think the worst thing that has happened is that I’ve had to Google something that my team is Slacking about, or hop onto Twitter, or simply reply “No” when someone asks if I’ve heard about something. (Gasp!)

Another trick I’ve tried out is setting a timer for Twitter checks. Last year I switched to periodic Twitter checks rather than leaving my Tweetdeck open all day, and that was great. But I still found myself getting sucked into the Twitterverse and wandering down various internet rabbit holes. So now, when I do my periodic Twitter checks, I set a timer and log back out once I hear the buzzer. And I usually follow it up with a computer break like getting second breakfast or switching the laundry so that I can process all the new information without trying to focus on an important task.

Perhaps for my reflection next year, a print newspaper will make an appearance (though we’re outside of the delivery zone for many major dailies).