I will dare you not to read (after you've read this post)

At noon on 17 Feb 2010, I completed a major exercise for Week 4 of the Artist’s Way: reading deprivation. This exercise is about monitoring the incoming information that you take by reading and keeping it to bare essentials. In short, no reading except for what you must absolutely read.

What you must absolutely read depends on what you do. If you are an editor, for example, you would have to be extremely creative about getting things done without reading documents to be edited. How about e-mail? E-mail seems to be an important tool for a number of people. But, given that people like Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta have been managing their business with almost no e-mail checking, there’s no excuse for most of us who wouldn’t get thousands of e-mail a day not to cut e-mail off for a week.

I set some filters to forward potentially important e-mails to my iPhone. I had to log in to my gmail account just once, in order to read an e-mail I had to check. But that was all. I didn’t even give a glance at other e-mails and after checking that particular one, I closed it as soon as possible. Hurray for me.

What I included in my “OK list” is the following:

  • Course materials on $100 Business Forum
  • What I have written during the week
  • Text messages, which I hardly get anyway
  • Some web sites, including YouTube and TED talks (You might be surprised to hear that these sites are included in my OK list, but I’m not that addicted to them and watching videos is not reading!)

I was particularly wary of Twitter and Facebook. Although I tend to spend some time using these sites, I’m not that addicted to them. Or maybe I am, and this is exactly like drunk people say when asked if they are drunk.

Anyway, while I didn’t miss using these sites, I did have some moments I felt like sharing things with my people through Twitter and Facebook. For sharing such moments, I think these social media are highly useful. Perhaps this is a lesson I learned… or perhaps I got reminded of through this exercise: use social media wisely. Simple, but true.

If I could share with my people only one thing per week, what would I choose? That’s a good question to ask myself in order to eliminate low-quality information and to get straight to the point.

(By the way, while I would like to recommend all the TED talks I’ve watched during the last 7 days, if I had to choose one, I’d recommend Seth Godin’s 2009 talk. I’m fascinated by the notion of tribes.)

The highlight of this reading deprivation week was when I dropped by Kinokuniya Bookshop in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It’s a bookstore with 6 floors full of books. I was near that bookstore and dared to go in. It’s somewhat suicidal, but I managed to walk around the store without even taking a book in my hand. Victory was mine.

If you asked me about what I learned from this week of reading deprivation, I would say… 1) I can live without checking e-mails and 2) singing and dancing can be very good substitutes for reading. I hardly watch movies, but I did during this week. So, rediscovering movies can be another thing I got from this experience.

Would you dare to deprive yourself of reading for a week? What would you do instead of reading?