Input Overload

I did something I haven't done in a long time - I spent the weekend reading a single book. I used to do this all the time - heck, that's how I spent all of middle school, reading one book after another. The difference between then and now is that I would read a single book until I finished it, and only then would I move on to the next one. I cleaned off my desk last weekend, and I still have five books on it, each in various stages of completion (the dictionary propping up my computer does not count in this tally, but I did plan to read the whole thing when I was 14 because I thought it would make me smart. I gave up an hour into the project). In the little basket next to the bed, I have at least three partially finished books. There's another one next to couch, and my bookshelf is a graveyard of broken promises to myself.

One book I did read to completion was Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton. I love books that give me insight into how people tick (as is evidenced by this weekend's read). My five key strengths were input, ideation, strategy, maximization, and positivity. Input being the key here, and the description in the strengths book is spot-on:

You collect things. You might collect information - words, facts, books, and quotations...If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives (page 105).

The key insight that I've had right off the bat in reading The Accidental Creative book is that I am suffering from a massive case of stimuli overload. I'm trying to read too much, every day, and it is destroying the amount of energy that I have to give to anything else. I rarely worry about the state of my email inbox, but I'm constantly focused on the unread count in my Google Reader. When we were backpacking in West Virginia, I was thinking about the amount of articles stacking up. I have trouble focusing on tasks when I know there are feeds to be read (especially Lifehacker and Craft - if I don't stay on top of those two they multiply like rabbits).

The all items unread count is a foe to be vanquished.

The thing is, I feel like I've culled my feeds well. I take care to keep it under 100 feeds, but it's still too much. My processing plan is all out of whack too. I end up reading some article three or four times before I either let it go out into the ether or catalogue it in DEVONthink for later retrieval. Andrew and I joke that I'm "reading the internet" as someday I'll get to the end of it.

And then there's podcasts. I haven't even mentioned those. I spend between 3-5 hours a day listening to podcasts while I'm doing other tasks, and I love them. Perhaps I love them a little too much. I just added up the totals from my podcasts folder; I am actively following and downloading feeds from 49 podcasts, still working through podcasts from 22 inactive podcasts (or ones I've chosen not to follow anymore), and am auditioning another 8 (I've downloaded a couple of episodes but haven't hit the "Subscribe" button). I rarely delete episodes unless it is tied to time, like Marketplace podcasts. I keep them in the event that I want to listen to them a second time (I usually do). The little tally at the bottom of iTunes usually makes me laugh, but now that I think of it in light of everything else, it kind of makes me nauseous:

2496 items

66.5 days

92.22 GB

The hard drive on my previous computer, for reference, was only 20 GB. This tally is just for podcasts; music not included. I think we can call a close second on Maximization as a strength - that's the one that always seems to get me into trouble. I want to get the most out of the things I like, and sometimes I go overboard. Way overboard. We won't even talk about Netflix, or the fact that now they group all seasons of a television show into a single feed. Thank goodness Twin Peaks only ran two seasons (but not really, that show was awesome. Can I get an amen?).

I've been wondering why I am so tired all the time. I think I just found my answer.

All of this input does drive my creative activities - it's actually the cornerstone of my writing for the Nerdist blog and has helped me find new knitting projects, as well as expand into jewelry making and embroidery, but I think it's starting to catch up to me. I've got to be a little more discriminating about what I chose to give my attention to.

I've also found the key focus for this quarter: learning how to bring some structure and discipline to the stimuli I take into my life.