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The Obsession with New Things Is Burdening Our Brain

The Obsession with New Things Is Burdening Our Brain
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Commercial organizations depend and thrive on our natural curiosity. That’s right, companies know that people are driven by a strong obsession for obtaining new information, products and services. Just take a look at cellphone companies, and how they constantly find ways to upgrade you to new phones and contracts. Also take a look at your inbox. You’ll no doubt find countless emails arriving every week that are ads and promotions for new stuff.

Now, it’s not that new stuff is bad. It’s just that when we attempt to consume too much new stuff it can be damaging to both our well-being – and our purse.

With companies desperate to keep introducing new and upgraded products, it’s no wonder that low-quality, or even faulty items are becoming more common. And it’s the same with information. There’s so much of it online, that the quality has undoubtedly become degraded. This can negatively impact our psyche and spiritual health.

If you look carefully at the information on offer, you’ll see that only about 10% of it is of high-quality. The rest is fake, throwaway or just pure garbage. To use Hollywood as an example, you’ll tend to find that approximately 10% of all movies are exceptionally good. The other 90% of movies range from average to bad. Unfortunately, as this latter category makes up the bulk of movies coming out of Hollywood – they’re most likely to be the bulk of our viewing time too.

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Recommendation Is a Curse

We usually find out about all this new stuff from “big names” such as celebrities, experts, authority figures and popular online platforms.

Let’s say you fancy purchasing a new book from Amazon. You head over to their site and are immediately presented with an eye-catching section called “New Recommendations.” This is where you’re likely to go to when browsing for a new book purchase.

It’s the same with songs. If you are looking for a new artist or album, Google Play, iTunes or Spotify will be happy to help you out by instantly showing the latest releases.

How about movies? You can hear about these in many ways, but it’s common for Grammy or Oscar award-winning movies to be titles that most people would be keen to watch.

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It appears that our reliability on “authority” for recommendations and good information started decades ago. These were the days before the internet. Consumers had to rely on “big names” to recommend good stuff (eg., movies, music and products). Information was the same too. People relied heavily on experts to tell them facts, and to give opinions on what information was valid and relevant.

When Obsession Becomes Exhaustion

Despite what you might think, the traditional perception about experts is rapidly being proven to be outdated. Clearly, reviews by experts of books, songs and movies don’t represent the true value of these things.  In many cases, the so-called experts may present low-quality stuff to the public as today’s audience has mostly stopped paying attention to what really constitutes good quality. Read more to find out Why It’s Time to Reboot Expertise

As an example for you, think of some of the latest mobile apps that online stores push. Despite impressive screenshots and features, it only takes a minute of using the apps to discover that they are next to worthless. Luckily, you have an uninstall option.

It’s not just products that can leave a bad taste in our mouths – it’s also information. The internet is a great thing, but its downside is that it offers us too much choice – and way too much information. (And often this information is unreliable or blatantly wrong.) It’s no wonder that many of us suffer from “new stuff fatigue”. We’re literally bombarded 24/7 from all sides with ads, news and information.

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Let’s be honest, our brains have limited space and energy, and too much new stuff will have a tendency to burn them out. Not only that, but when the majority of the new information is bad information, this leaves little space to accept and process good information. Find out here How Clutter Drains Your Brain (and What You Can Do About It)

Everything You Take in Matters

Our obsession with new things is in our nature, but we can turn things around by controlling what we consume.

For instance, everyone of us can take control of the information we receive. This can be achieved by only selecting and picking the best and most relevant information from online and offline sources. By doing this, we’ll then have the time and space to properly study and absorb the information – instead of having our minds constantly overloaded.

Once you start being selective with information, you’ll quickly discover that the recommendations of experts are no longer necessary. You’ll unearth an intellectual freedom that you never knew was possible. And you’ll begin to enjoy information again, just like you did when you were a small, curious child.

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While it may initially be hard to take control of incoming information, don’t let laziness stop you. Make a determined effort to cut out the dross. This way, you’ll leave yourself with only valuable and appropriate information.

Here’s an idea for you: instead of watching movies based on what’s featured in the latest magazines or online sites, dig into the genre you like, and check out gems you’ve missed all these years. You’ll find that these movies tug on your heart strings. They will be movies that you genuinely enjoy, rather than movies that you’re expected to enjoy.

It’s the same with music. Forget the latest releases, step back in time and choose to listen to artists who made you happy when you were younger. As soon as these songs start playing, you’ll feel a tingle in your spine – and an accompanying lift in your mood. Truly, you’ll be energized by the songs, and you’ll have found your way back to what you really enjoy.

But please don’t take my word for it. Try being selective with your choice of entertainment, information and products, and see what difference it makes to your life. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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