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The Obsession with New Things Is Burdening Our Brain

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The Obsession with New Things Is Burdening Our Brain

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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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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