Ignorance on a schedule
June 10, 2019
How often have you settled-in for some downtime and noticed a work notification on your homescreen. Do you look? If you don't look, do you think about whether you should look? Does it nag at you? This shit's a thorn in the stoic designer's side, because even if you are a practiced it-doesn't-matterer, it's hard to deny this almost instinctual nag that something might be wrong. It's the equivalent of our ancestors huddled around a fire at night, when they hear a twig break in the distance.
Peace of mind is, in some part, a question of input control. Your mind needs time to process, compartmentalize, categorize, and prioritize information, but it's increasingly likely in the present and future of work that the stream of information is a firehose. It should be throttled, filtered. This is the belief system behind the increasingly popular slow news movement, where you deliberately avoid news and news feeds except for once per week, or even once per month. The early outcome of such a practice is FOMO - the fear of missing out - which is a withdrawal symptom of self-imposed ignorance, which calls into the question the crux of what's at hand: is it better to know, or is it better to be happy.
More often than not this is the choice. Knowledge can lead to happiness, but how much more likely is it that new information leads to anxiety, a choice that needs to be made, emotion other than contentment? Now ask, how often is that knowledge worth it? Would it really have been so bad if you didn't know for another 8 hours, until the beginning of your work day?
Stoic designers should experiment with ignorance scheduling, which we can use as an umbrella term to categorize behaviors like turning off notifications, checking email only once per day at a set time, slow news, and the like. The thinking is that we can be more deliberate about what information makes us better at our work, what information makes us better outside of work, and apply the same prioritization logic stoics apply to emotions to the stream of information.
Cultivate the view outside the window through which you look.
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