The dangers of paying too close of attention to industry news

Ironic, I know. I'm writing you “industry news” to warn you about paying too close of attention to it. But I am. It's a bit of a risk, but I wouldn't be being true to myself if I didn't share what I find valuable.

Jason Fried recently wrote about how he completely stopped paying attention to “industry news” over a year ago. He explains why:

I felt myself getting too involved, too absorbed, and a bit too anxious about what I was missing, and about what I knew or didn’t know, but thought I should know. I was checking Twitter too often and reloading sites too often. If someone told me about something I hadn’t heard of, I felt like I should have already known about it. Industry news was becoming an addiction.

He came to the conclusion that if something truly needed his attention — and to take his focus away from Basecamp, his product — that someone would tell him about it directly.

He found that as a result of paying less attention, he felt healthier.

The incredible thing is that a few months into the industry-news detox, I felt better not only mentally, but physically, too. My mind wasn’t on edge, waiting for the next big thing to hit. I was calmer, I found myself with more time, and I was far more focused on stuff I could control, like my product, my company, my person, rather than stuff I couldn’t, like the next “Basecamp killer” or some hot new startup.

His post struck a cord with me. Not because I was offended, as a provider of news, but because I could relate. At times — usually a few times per year, that typically last a few weeks — I can feel the tension in myself building up, and I can tell I'm nearing some form of burnout or exhaustion.

I've felt it the last couple of weeks (you may be able to tell based on my writing, even). And I think some of what causes that is when I'm on the tail end of being too engaged in the moment of industry news and hot drama. I know I'm not alone. It's common to see my friends disappear for a few weeks, or longer, while they cool down from a burnout; or they take a social hiatus (if not a work one as well) to recoup their mental capacity and energy.

It's important that we operate at a healthy level, and obsessing too much on what's going on in the world and in our industry can be just as unhealthy to our mind as sitting too long is on our body.

Now, it may seem ridiculous for me to say this. I help make the news! I'm part of the problem, some could say. But my goal is not to be the problem, but the filter. I hope you'll excuse me while I spend a minute being a bit introspective.

I really struggle some weeks, thinking I must get the newsletter out some specific number of times — maybe 5, or 4, or 3 times per week. My “number” has gone down some over the course of the year as I've better come to understand the ebbs and flows of managing information and sifting through what's important to deliver to you. I think I made a mistake early on by thinking I need to give you something every day. Sure, some of you want that (I would too, I am an addict). But I've realized more and more that it's important that I deliver the best information, not just any ‘ole drama or link. That's why you really pay me.

So, I hope that as we move forward, you'll forgive me the days I don't send a newsletter. I promise I will get you the most important stuff you need to know, but some weeks it may be three times, and other weeks it may be five; I don't really know, other than that it may not be 100% consistent.

Jason's post helped remind me that my job is to give you what you need to help prevent you from binging, and also to prevent you from just giving up on keeping up. Because it is important to stay in tune with your industry, but you should not be driven by it.

I'm your filter. I'm your direct person telling you what's important, however often is important, not some set number.

So don't fret if you're not completely up to date with your Twitter and RSS feeds, or whatever your firehose is. I'll give you the important parts. You do what you do best: make awesome stuff.

2 Comments

  1. I’m glad to hear this as I catch up with your last couple mailings. I notice the gap days, but when I see there’s nothing from you in my inbox I think that’s a good thing because I know what a constant, machine-like churn will cost you in the quality of your work, your life, and your family. I don’t want “my money’s worth” to have an excess of those external costs on others.

    This post reminds me of cases of “blogger burnout,” like Andrew Sullivan who quit cold turkey earlier this year because he said it nearly killed him. That’s no joke, and neither is the less lethal but still injurious cognitive overload driven by fear of missing out. It’s a reality everyone has to battle if they’re plugged into the interwebs for most of the day. Your “less is more” approach to filtering the firehose for others is great for them, but it also requires you to make use of the killswitch for your family and your own life. It’s a very good thing to make this reminder in a public way now and then. I appreciate how you keep your humanity up front. Stay healthy, stay sane, and it helps others do that too.

  2. @Brian: Thanks so much for sharing this. I basically quit following Twitter a year ago because it was stressing me out, trying to keep up with everything. So this post really just confirmed that I was doing the right thing 🙂 And now with Post Status I do feel less worried about missing some important news.

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