Clay Johnson, author of the soon-to-be-released The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, answering the question, “Does going on an information diet improve one’s productivity?” on Quora:
The concept of an information diet shouldn’t be to “shut away all information consumption and focus on doing work.” If you look at food — the most common place where we have the concept of “diet” we’d never say that a healthy diet is “temporarily not eating” — that’s either waiting between meals/snacks, fasting, or anorexia, but it’s not dieting. A healthy information diet means being selective about one’s information intake, and consciously consuming it.
Can an information diet that’s focused on creating healthy consumption of information improve one’s productivity? You bet — if anything, trying to cap your total daily information intake will increase your productivity by adding more time to your life. The average American spends 11 hours a day consuming information while they’re not at work and many of us who work in front of a computer end up spending a lot of time consuming information while at work, too. …
My information diet consists of a cap of 6 hours a day of total, proactive information consumption. That means everything that requires my explicit attention that doesn’t involve another person — television, movies, the Internet, email, social networks — if it involves a URL, a mouse, or a remote control, that goes into that 6 hours. It doesn’t mean anything physically social or stuff I have no control over, like advertisements on the subway, or music in the grocery store.
Of that six hours, I spend 2 hours on entertainment and 4 hours on work related research and communication. Sometimes that changes — on weekends, for instance, I spend the full six hours doing whatever the heck I want, as long as it’s not more than six hours. By capping it at six hours, it also forces me to do things like go for a long walk with my wife, or cooking a good dinner, or producing information. That’s been a heck of an improvement not only on my productivity, but in my marriage and on my overall health.