The Outlier 30 Day Challenge - Part 2

by: Kathleen Martin

As reported earlier this week, the Outlier team has been participating in personal 30-Day Challenges over the past month or two. It's been a valuable exercise--helping team member break out of their usual routine in order to try changing, by just one thing, for 30 days. Last we heard from Outlier co-founder Ben Friedle and Graphic Designer Diana Lien. In today's post, we hear from Outlier's other co-founder and Technology Director Jed Herzog...

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in--maybe obsessed with--politics and current events. In my high school and college years, my passion drove me into Model UN, Mock Trial, and a couple of Clemson University Forensics and Debate teams. Once I became a professional, my interest grew to manifest itself in a serious online reading habit. Multiple times a day, I found myself ingesting the news on my laptop and phone; visiting news websites and following links shared via Twitter and Facebook--modern technology come to bear.

Despite my love for indulging in news and commentary through all available channels, I am fully aware of the negative externalities. Friends and family don't always want to hear my latest rant, or my summary of a news story that I just read. I tried to cut back on my news consumption during the workday by installing browser extensions to limit how often I could read certain websites. Still, before and after work and all weekend long, I was all news, all the time.

Then, I read this post by Matt Cutts: New 30 Day Challenge, No News. Of course, I talked about it with everyone in the office. Ranted, even. Then my friend and business partner, Ben, threw down the gauntlet -- he said "you wouldn’t last 30 days away from the news." Oh? I already recognized that having news consumption as my main source of entertainment wasn’t the most healthy thing in the world. I knew it would be good for me to take on Matt’s challenge. And I certainly couldn’t let Ben get one over on me.

I quit all things news or news-like for 30 days.

First, I cleaned digital house. I unfolllowed and unfriended any social media contacts whose posts were > 51% news and politics. I re-installed browser extensions to block all of the sites and blogs I frequented whose main topics included tech news, politics, sports, comedy news, and news directories (Google News). I resolved to watch no news or commentary on television. I didn't listen to NPR or KBOO. I even muted the "John Stewart Minute" when it came on 94.7FM’s morning show.

Here I am, on Day 31. Without hesitation, I can say this was a great experience.

I was not in the dark these past 30 days. Friends made me watch President Obama slow jam the news on YouTube. My wife told me NC voted "Amendment 1" into law. I work in downtown Portland and saw the May Day protests first-hand. If it truly mattered, or it was genuinely entertaining, I experienced it firsthand or was told about it by friends and family.

Let’s put that into perspective: Three important stories in 30 days. Before the challenge, I easily consumed three less important stories every few hours, every day.

I feel like a recovered addict. I am more productive at work and at home. Close friends and loved ones tell me I exhibit a more positive attitude, and talking with me is more interesting. Post-challenge, I feel like I’ve completed a highly satisfying workout. I've made a change for the better and it feels good.

Now that I’ve broken the habit, I have no intention of consuming news as vigorously as I did in the past. News websites and news-oriented social media contacts are still blocked. I must say, I missed Twitter a lot during the 30 day challenge, and am glad to enjoy it like I used to (sans the news accounts, of course). During the challenge, I didn’t allow myself to click links my social contacts posted. Now, I click. And I find that social media feeds like Twitter can serve as excellent curators of news and other important stories.

Though I expected it to be a slog, looking back I realize 30 days goes by in a flash. The idea of a 30 day challenge is brilliant. No matter how tough the task may seem, you can survive 30 days. I think this graphic conveys how I feel about completing my challenge. Thanks for the inspiration, Matt Cutts.

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