The joy of the cognitive miser.

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There are 60 emails in the inbox every day.

The profession is changing at a rapid rate and briefings are being released on a seemingly daily basis.

The wider political, economic and social context is in flux. With 24 hour news feeds it seems almost impossible to stay up to date.

These are dilemmas that are common to many professions.

Workload is a serious issue in the teaching. It is one of the most cited reasons for leaving, or contemplating leaving, the profession. Recent reports have identified three fields in which the issues relating to workload should be considered:

The reports provide an insightful summary of the issues that generate unnecessary workloads. Undoubtedly more research is needed to discover effective strategies to enable professionals to focus on core business but there are ways in which we can take individual responsibility for dealing with the problems associated with being overloaded and one of those is to become a cognitive miser.

Warning! Becoming a cognitive miser is like going through a detox – the process can be painful but the result is worth it.

In his funny and inspirational book ‘The Four Hour Workweek’, Tim Feriss provides are short introduction to the art of being a cognitive miser, which he describes as cultivating the art of selective ignorance.

‘Ignorance may be bliss, but it is also practical. It is imperative that you learn to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportance, or unactionable. Most are all three.

The first step is to develop and maintain a low-information diet. Just as modern man consumes both too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, information workers eat data both in excess and from the wrong sources.’

The recommendations are:

1. Read the headlines of the news and no more on a daily basis.

2. Select two professional websites or magazines and set aside one hour a month to read them fully.

3. Instead of reading the latest books in your field, set aside one hour a month to read the book reviews.

What can be achieved with that list? You stay functionally up to date on the basis of five minutes per day and two hour long sessions.

Why is that good for you personally as well as professionally? A Dutch study of young people with suicidal depression found two universal features. The young people in the study all spent significant amounts of time reading information or news about topics that they felt emotionally affected by but over which they had no control, responsibility or impact on. They also permitted the time spent reading that information to expand without restraint and to be the default first priority.

Hesitant to take the leap? Why not have a 30 day cognitive miser experiment? If you don’t feel lighter, more effective and more focused in 30 days, you can always go back to the full inbox, 24 hour news and ever present sense of falling behind.

Learn the joy of a cognitive miser.

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