Embrace the Slow Web, Your Productivity Will Thank You

Applications are needy. Just five years ago they left you alone (with the exception of the MS Office paperclip helping you out) but today, every single application on your smartphone and laptop wants to send you an alert. Put simply, each app believes its worthy of a chunk of your precious time.

The result is maddening: without some serious reconfiguration, your smartphone and laptop ping you constantly to alert you of that new email, breaking news alert or deal at the sushi restaurant down the road. It leads to a high-speed information addiction, an insatiable need to know things the instant they happen for fear of being left behind and uninformed. The most severe consequence of this high-information diet is constant interruption, grinding productivity to a halt.

The solution takes some time to get used to, but after converting to the Slow Web, you will never go back. The Slow Web movement, made popular by entrepreneur Jack Cheng, challenges followers to take a step back from the real time feedback loop and 24-hour news cycle of the “fast” web and enjoy the Internet for the slow, interactive experiences.

“The you have two hundred twenty six new updates web. Keep up or be lost. Click me. Like me. Tweet me.
Share me. The Fast Web demands that you do things and do them now. The Fast Web is a cruel wonderland of
shiny shiny things.” – Jack Cheng

I joined the slow web movement and so far it has worked wonders for my efficiency. Here’s what it looked like for me:

  • Turning off all breaking news alerts on my iPhone (CNN is needy, NY Times sends out less frequently).
  • Disabling all notifications from social networks.
  • Setting my email to manual send/receive.
  • Disabling the notification center on my Mac. (Introduced in OS X 10.8, the notification center pushes alerts to the top right of your screen, feeding your alert addiction when your iPhone is not nearby).

So it was done. At first it was a bit scary: the silence, the iPhone sitting lifeless on the desk, the lack of information. But the world did not end – I took my notepad out, jotted out a to-do list and felt oddly refreshed. I didn’t check the news, my email or any social networks for the next 6 hours and I did not miss anything important.

Perhaps the greatest revelation I had was the importance of my phone. If there was an actual emergency and I was needed, someone would call me. Everything else is just noise. So embrace the Slow Web, turn off your notifications and think about producing content rapidly rather than consuming it. You just may surprise yourself with how much you get done.

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