A Simple Yet Radical Way to Become More Awesome

Tommy Leung wrote this on Mar 21, 2018
4 minute read

I have a morning routine. You probably do too.

Mine had been about the same for years: I would have coffee and read the news.

It started with RSS feeds. Then Apple released the News app and I switched.

I considered reading the news and staying up to date on current events something that smart and informed people did.

Like a habit for successful people.

If I wasn’t smart then I could at least be informed. So I spent about an hour reading the news every morning.

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

- Mark Twain

The idea that keeping up with the news was a waste of time had come to my attention on several occasions. It caused me to raise an eyebrow but that was about it. Even though the idea came from people who I respected. People who I considered productive, successful, smart, and informed.

I was not ready for such a radical shift in thinking.

The news is also addicting. I was probably addicted.

But didn’t I want to know what was going on in the world? Be aware of new technologies and trends? Didn’t I want to be informed on where the markets were going? If only because I invested in stocks?

These are great justifications but was my underlying assumption correct? Was I actually getting this information from the news?

The aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election and the subsequent acceleration of fake news led me to reduce my news consumption. I stopped reading news from the major news sources.

CNN. CNBC. ABC. FOX. NYT. WaPo.

I kept up with financial and tech news. I did this for a while and it was better. But Apple News would still show me things it thought I should read. And those stories would come from the tradition news sources.

So one week I decided to not read any news at all. I did this for a week and nothing bad happened. I wasn’t necessarily any less informed. I didn’t miss anything.

So I did it again the next week. And the week after that.

Now I don’t read the news in the morning.

I’ve replaced it with reading books, watching educational videos, or just doing work. Or maybe I just brush my dog–things of real importance!

I saved an entire hour and gave up nothing.

One interesting thing about not reading the news is that any important story will still find its way to you. If it was important then it will come up in conversation.

There’s the concept of push versus poll in software engineering. A push service is more efficient than a polling service.

A push service will notify you of events only when it happens. This is counter to polling where you periodically check if there’s anything new. Often times there is nothing new so a large number of checks will be wasted effort.

Reading the news every morning is polling.

Only reading about a news story when it gets pushed to you frees you up to do work that truly matters.

I had worries that I would miss important information in the beginning. But not much changes day to day. The news exaggerates every story to keep you reading. To make them see more important than they are.

The financial news is a great example.

The market can move up or down on any given day. Next to nothing can be deduced from daily market movements. Trends can only be seen over a longer time span. Trying to decipher daily market movements is a giant waste of time.

A new routine

Improving my morning routine is an on-going endeavor but this is what my routine looks like now:

  1. Drink a glass of water then have coffee.
  2. Meditate for 5 minutes.
  3. Write in a daily journal. Each day I write down 3 things I’m grateful for and whatever else is on my mind.
  4. Organize tasks to accomplish for the day.
  5. Read a book, watch an educational video, or start working as I finish my coffee
  6. Go to the gym for a workout

I am much more productive with this routine.

I do check Twitter–while on the toilet 😂–and should really stop that too. I’m also working to improve my email clutter. There’s always room for improvement.

Removing the addictive habit of reading the news has improved my productivity and well-being. Highly recommended.

“A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”

- H. L. Mencken

Share your experience with news addiction in the comments below!