No news is good news

Funny thing happened to me the last couple of days: I got a lot more work done. It’s not that I’m normally a slacker. But I noticed that I’ve been finishing each day with a few more items crossed off my to-do list than usual. And I wondered why.

Then I glanced down at my Dock and figured it out: The icon for NetNewsWire indicated that I had about 2,000 unread newsfeeds.

My usual routine, going back years, is to try to plow through my e-mail first thing in the morning, then the day’s news. A couple of years ago, the latter meant firing up Firefox and running through my list of News bookmarks. Nowadays, of course, I use RSS instead of bookmarks, making my news-scanning much more efficient.

Or so I thought. In fact, in a classic application of Parkinson’s Law, because RSS makes it easier to keep up on the news, the amount of news I read had expanded to fill the time I made to read it.

Which means I’m probably a bit better informed than I used to be. But it also means I haven’t been getting as much actual work done as I could.

Then, over the past week, I got deep in the weeds with Leopard —evaluating the new iCal, heading to Cupertino for a briefing at Apple HQ, trying to figure out how to configure the new Leopard Server—to the exclusion of pretty much anything else, including reading the news. I got out of the habit, for a few days at least, of firing up NetNewsWire every day. I figured the world wouldn’t end—and I wouldn’t lose my job—if I let the news sit for a bit.

And, lo and behold, I got a lot more done.

Which makes me wonder: How much do I really need to stay fully informed all day long? Sure, it’s my job to stay up-to-date. But doing so can consume an ever-increasing portion of the workday, to the exclusion of other tasks. It’s something I think a lot of us have been wrestling with since the dawn of the Net: How to balance the need to stay connected with the need to do everything else. In my case, I think the balance may have gotten a little out of whack. How bout you?

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