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Do You Need an Information Detox?

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Do You Need an Information Detox?
    Too much information can tip the scales...and not in your favour.

    Could you imagine going a full day without your iPhone or BlackBerry? What would it be like if you couldn’t check Facebook and see what your friends had been up to? Or if Twitter was temporarily out of action and your feed of 140 character messages were eliminated from your day? What if the newspaper didn’t arrive — and you had no Internet access? What a nightmare! How would we survive this hypothetical day of disconnection?

    We regularly hear talk of the modern phenomenon, “Information Overload”, but have you noticed that we rarely hear anything about “Information Detox”? In other facets of our lives if we over-consume, the consensual thinking is to reduce, eliminate or detox. If you over-consume at a party on Saturday night, the first thing you’re likely to think of doing on Sunday is to clean out your body so that it can return to a state of improved energy and health.

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    A detox (or detox diet) aims to remove the toxins that have accumulated in your body and rejuvenate your health. After a detox, people claim to feel “light” and healthy again.

    So…could we take this idea and carry it out with our information consumption?

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    Reasons to begin an Information Detox

    To borrow one of my mother’s favourite sayings, “Everything in moderation”, too much of anything is not good. The same goes for information consumption. Too much of it is a bad thing. But how can information be negative?

    It disturbs our focus. When we are always connected, it is much more difficult to keep our attention on the job that needs doing. We start to believe we are missing something. If we don’t log in to Twitter or Facebook, we may have missed something really interesting or relevant.

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    It can create stress. We are bombarded with information from all areas: newspapers, newsletters, news feeds. The danger is that we feel obliged to read all of this information. We believe that in some way our lives will be lacking if we don’t consume all the material that comes our way. This can create the subconscious anxiety that we always have something we need to do.

    It fosters negativity. The media is full of negative news these days. Do we need to fill our days with these unpleasant thoughts and images? Wouldn’t it be a lot more pleasant to surround ourselves with positivity and inspiration?

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    We fail to be present. Look around you everywhere you go. Whether you are walking down a street in the United States or in New Zealand, the Netherlands or Abu Dhabi, wherever you look you will see the same picture. People absorbed by their mobile phones, engrossed in the “conversations” they are having. Talk or text — it doesn’t matter — they are detached from the reality around them. They are not living their lives in the present moment. If we allow this to continue, our personal relationships can suffer. The more we connect online the more we detach ourselves from our local community. Our jobs can suffer from the lack of focus and distraction. Our health can suffer from the stress and pressure to stay informed and connected. Ultimately, we may miss out on the beauty and possibilities of life.

    Are you up for an Information Detox?

    Here are some suggestions that you can try to get started. If you are feeing brave, try all of them for a week. If you want to try using baby steps, choose one each day this week and see how it changes your life for the better.

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    1. Switch off your phone when you get home from work.
    2. Don’t use your phone on your way to and from work. Listen to music or read a novel.
    3. Don’t access Facebook and Twitter for one week.
    4. Don’t read any material that is not uplifting and motivational.
    5. Turn off all email notifications or any other social media messages.
    6. Do not watch the television for one week.
    7. No newspapers, online news or any other form of world news access.

    I would love to hear more suggestions and feedback. Let me know if you plan to try an Information Detox in the comments — and then come back and let me know how it turned out!

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on November 25, 2021

    Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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    Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

    With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

    Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

    In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

    The easy fundamentals

    First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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    A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

    Here are some examples of strong passwords:
    * i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
    * ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
    * mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

    And not so good examples
    * sammy1234
    * password123
    * christopher

    You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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    Managing your passwords

    I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

    So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

    There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

    Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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    LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

    Upkeep

    You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

    There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

    Alternatives

    You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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    1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
    2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
    3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

    These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

    So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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