It’s 2020, and we’re surrounded by data. It’s everywhere and constantly updating – in feeds and pushed in your face by notifications. Often it’s free and of little worth, but you don’t know that until you’ve consumed it. When everybody is reading the same thing, it becomes irresistible. FOMO and all.
The real cost of information is the opportunity cost. You could’ve read an important book, but you chose to keep up with the live news feed instead. It’s impossible to keep up with everything. What you focus on matters.
In a way, information is like food. At the time of abundance, the things we’re naturally pulled towards for survival aren’t necessarily the best for us in the long run. Just as you can’t stop eating altogether, you can’t simply cut yourself off and stop consuming information. However, a healthy information diet is essential to getting things done in the 21st century.
Last week, I launched Writing Analytics on Product Hunt TKLINK – a community of makers and early adopters interested in emerging products. I’ve put a lot of work into the app – months and months of heavy grinding. I stayed up till 4AM to get everything ready. I really wanted the launch to go well. I was terrified as my post TKLINK there went live early on Monday morning. Would it get any upvotes at all? Would anyone sign up to try it?
Throughout the day, I didn’t go five minutes without checking my phone. I watched how many people came to visit the site and kept refreshing the page to see how many upvotes I received. My mind was buzzing. It was completely insane. I didn’t get anything done. It affected my sleep and spilt over to the rest of the week. I am a worrier, but I don’t usually have problems with anxiety. However, this took me out for days. And I hated every minute of it.
In the end, the launch went well. It got featured on the front page and received over 100 upvotes. Bunch of people signed up as well. Did me checking my phone 200 times during the day help anything? Absolutely not. I could’ve checked the final number at the end of the day.
Even if Writing Analytics totally bombed, would I just drop it and move on? Of course not. I believe in the app and enjoy working on it. All the anxiety about a bunch of upvotes was completely unjustified. I was stressing myself over nothing.
The same thing applies to anything that you put out into the world – a tweet, a blog post or a book. You’re not in control of how many people read or share it. You can’t prevent people from giving you mean reviews or posting negative comments. But you can choose not to look. None of those things are a true reflection of how good you or your work is anyway.
This experience really reaffirmed why I built Writing Analytics in the first place. Data can be a detractor, but also a powerful motivator. There’s so much of it out there, but most of it is distracting you from the work that you need to do – the number of followers, likes, live updates, breaking news. I believe that it’s important to replace the noise with metrics that add value to your life and that you can control.
What new things have I learned about craft? How many words did I write? How many fascinating books have I read? How many stories have I finished? What have I created today?
Just like nutrition, it takes a pretty serious commitment to sort out your information diet. But when you do, you will never want to go back.
Stay safe and focus on the right metrics.
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