Keeping Up

Working in software, there's a tremendous pressure to keep up with new technology. Staying aware and informed is work enough without trying to actually educate yourself with any depth.

I experience the same feeling of pressure when I consider the possibility of staying informed on current events and politics. Likewise with the idea of keeping on top of my backlog of books, movies, video games, blogs, TV, comics, and podcasts. And then there's Twitter!

Realistically, I know that this torrent of content is something I will never be able to consume. I might as well lie down pointed upstream in a river and open my mouth. I try to be picky, but the filtering alone is a not insignificant time commitment.

Keeping up, even with the fun stuff, can feel like a job. An obligation. Maybe this turns you off of the whole enterprise. Or maybe it just makes you dig in and rededicate yourself. Curate the backlog, and then set aside time every day or two to dig through it. Now it really is a job, but at least you're making progress. Heaven forbid you actually want to digest any of it with any care.

There are two primary reasons I eat food: for fuel or for enjoyment. I take in media for these same reasons. Neither of these things happen if my focus while I slog through a pile of content is the modest goal of "making progress". Instead, it just washes over me until it's past, and I mark it done and move on to the next thing. Learning and satisfaction will be minimal.

It's important to maintain perspective on why you're working through a particular piece of media, and make sure that you're not abandoning that purpose for the goal of getting to the next thing. If you're reading a book to learn, then take the time to ruminate and let it put a dent in your thinking. If you're watching a show or playing a game for enjoyment, then savor it.

Don't just chug down bytes and rush on to the next thing. As a matter of the value of your time, you'd be infinitely better served by just taking a good nap.