How To Stop Information Pollution From Poisoning Your Memory

Image of a boy with electric cables to express the negative outcome of noise pollutionYou’ve read about browser control software, right?

You know. The kind that blocks ads or logs you out after you’ve procrastinated too long.

All fine and dandy, but not the solution. Here are some low-tech things to try instead:


Get The Important Stuff Done
Before You Switch The DumbPhone On


“Yeah right,” I hear you say. “My computer IS the important stuff!”

Really? What about learning a language, or even just developing motivation for learning one? Believe it or not, people have learned languages for a long time without the aid of machines.

But even if you still need software, you can model what I’m doing for Mandarin Chinese. Technically, it still involves using a machine, but I use it like an ugly old Walkman.

Which leads us to:


Digital Fasting:
Stop Carrying The Internet With You Everywhere


Sometimes I worry about becoming a Luddite. I do not have a single device that accesses the Internet unless I find wireless in a cafe. And even then, I’ve designed my life in a way that I rarely need it.

Friends and strangers alike ask me how I survive without it, a question that perplexes me. From ages four to twenty-four, I managed to meet people all over the world without having an email address or a cellphone.

Heck, I even used to arrange meetings by post.

The point being is that if you can’t figure out why you’re not achieving your goals, look to the roaming Internet first. And then consider the following life-changing activities:

* Use an app like Plain Text to write a book, blog post or article (like I’m doing right now) instead of scrolling through Facebook and clicking the Like button. That’s a fast path to nowhere.

But all wealth comes from writing, including social, intellectual and financial wealth. I guess the occasional “LOL” might add to the pool, but I’m certainly not counting on it.

* Create a mind map with (gasp!) pen and paper while using your spayed or neutered DumbPhone to listen to a podcast or lecture. You’ll remember more and come up with incredible ideas as you work. I highly recommend Mind Map Mastery for tips and advice on this practice.

* Meet a human being and have a conversation with no devices on or near the table. Switch it off so it doesn’t buzz, beep or otherwise bang its way into your attention from within a bag or pocket.

And above all, learn and love this phrase: “I’ll look it up later.” Then use your to-do list to create a Memory Palace that helps you do so.

Speaking of which:


If You Create A Memory Palace, Use It


Many people tell me they’ve created one or more Memory Palaces. They even send me excellent drawings that demonstrate substantial knowledge of the Magnetic Memory Method.

The only problem is … They never use them.

Regarding today’s topic, failing to use your inner mental technology opens you to more information pollution because you’re not spending time massaging the right stuff into your memory.

Stuff like:

* Facts that build general knowledge.

* Names and dates of historical figures and events that develop your understanding of how and why we got here.

* Critical Information from a textbook so that you can ace exams.

* Poems, quotes, plots and jokes so that you always have something interesting to say. Heck, if you’ve got good poems, stories or philosophical ideas memorized, you’ll always have something fascinating to think about even when you’re on your own.

* Passwords and credit card numbers so that you’re not pouring time down the drain looking stuff up.

You can memorize all of these things, even if you have aphantasia.


Memorizing These Things Could Make The Difference
Between Being A Mouse Or A Millionaire


But if you’re tootling your time away consuming and creating blasts of info pollution, good luck making it to the top.

But … How? How do we avoid all this nonsense and the digital amnesia it brings?


Frame Your Day With Time Boundaries


It’s not just about doing the important stuff before you switch on the computer. It’s about spacing out time across the day.

Luckily, this is easy to do. It’s called “setting a timer.” How it works is this:

1. Decide how long you want to work on a high margin task. When it comes to your memory work, that might mean the design, memorization or recall parts, as described in this video:

2. Set the timer. If you’re studying from a lecture or audiobook, use these 5 Note Taking Techniques That Force You To Remember More.

3. Work until the timer rings. This simple device will help improve focus and concentration.

4. Take a computer-free break to avoid noise pollution. Do push ups, take a walk or, dip into a Memory Palace.

If you can’t develop the discipline needed to do this on your own, find a co-working team.

My friend Max Breckbill hosts the most amazing group sessions and serves as the MC.

He starts and ends each session and manages a spreadsheet that lists the activities of each attendee to help create accountability.

And in the memory world, this is how my students go from being mnemonics beginners to Memory Palace Masters quickly.


Set Activity Boundaries And Hold To Them


At the beginning of 2016, I performed a life assessment with the help of my friend Jonathan Levi.

One of the huge gaps I found involved the withering of my music life. Somehow I just wasn’t playing bass often enough anymore. Same thing with my language learning and memory experiments.

So then I did a severe time analysis and found that I’d unconsciously slid away from my tried and true time-tracking technique. Once I got that back on track, I quickly spotted the culprit.


Here’s What Happens When You Look In The Mirror


You thought I was going to say Facebook, right?

Almost. The actual answer is “me on Facebook.”


Because blaming software, hardware and online platforms for siphoning our time amounts to technological determinism.

The truth is that the machines don’t make us spend our time on them. We determine our own way onto them and into their forests of noise pollution all on our own.

And it’s tremendously exhausting both psychologically and physically.

Those dopamine boosts feel good, but that’s just because there’s sugar on the blade. We’re oozing precious lifeblood each and every second we spend in states of media-induced excitement.

The solution?


Use The Simple Power Of Arithmetic
Rules To Set Yourself Free


At the ThinkBuzan memory training I attended, Tony Buzan said something very important that applies to many things in life: “Rules set you free.” When it comes to eliminating information pollution to your life, try setting these into action:

Starting tomorrow, count the number of times you find yourself on Facebook. If you use browsers exclusively, you could use the history function at the end of the day, but if the FB app doesn’t track it, you’ll have to do it manually.

Yes, yes, I know that there are apps that show you graphs of where you spend your time. But I don’t think graphical readouts spit out by the same machine you’re trying to avoid will create quite the same shock ad awe as the graph you create on your own.

Once you know your numbers, set a rule.

For example, you can cut the number in half and use a Memory Palace and the Major Method to track the number of times you’ve popped in.


Everybody Knows That The Dice Are Loaded


Or roll dice and subtract that number.

Better yet, go for broke and determine to visit your favorite noise pollution sites once a day. Maximum.

That’s ultimately how I got mounds of time back into my life.

At first, I didn’t know what to do with it all, even after reinserting bass practice and language learning.

But I soon found ways, such as reviving my passion for reading novels and even created my own coloring book so I could dive into a form of guided creativity so many of us have lost since childhood.

To seal the deal …


Journal Your Progress And Tell Others
About Your Accomplishments


“Hell,” Sartre wrote, “is other people.”

And when it comes to getting tied up in information pollution, this might be true. Especially when the excuse for multiple exposures comes down to not wanting to lose touch with friends.

Frankly, if you can’t keep up with friends by visiting Facebook just once a day and scanning their feeds, then you need to find a way to get paid for the labor of liking their posts.

Instead, use the power of mathematical rules to set yourself free and then report on the experience. I use The Freedom Journal to help me in this regard.

Encourage others to do the same.


Fight The Noise Pollution


Get your power back.

Learn, memorize and recall more. Maybe take up a goal like Marno Hermann, who memorized 1200 Digits of Pi and recited them all live.

Trust me, if you implement what you’ve read in this post, you’ll not only reduce the info pollution in your life. You’ll win back the time you spent reading it back in droves and become one of the smartest human beings on the planet.

Now go forth and Magnetize.

12 Responses to " How To Stop Information Pollution From Poisoning Your Memory "

  1. Tom says:

    Good motivational stuff!

  2. Liz says:

    Well said. I agree with your comments.

  3. Ian says:

    I might not follow all of your suggestions – my problem is FreeCell type programmes that fascinate me – but I do like your idea of doing a life assessment so that I get to do the things I enjoy like meeting people and having conversations. I will learn to set a timer and pick up my guitar again. Life has so much more to offer than that part invaded by Facebook.

    • Thanks for this, Ian. It’s a good policy not to throw out everything, but even just 20% of these suggestions will make a noticeable impact. I think the most important part above all tracking the results, analyzing them and then looking for ways to optimize the experience. It’s used to the point of cliche, but I think the phrase makes great sense: We can only improve what we measure.

      Thanks again – look forward to hearing how things go. And as a fellow musician (I play bass), I’d love to hear your stuff sometime! 🙂

  4. Vesa N. says:

    Spot on, Anthony! I’m chuckling internally because I’m on a train and I could spend the time on improving my memorization of cards, for example (which I’ve been doing lately wherever I’ve had a block of time to use). But I think reading your podcast ain’t bad use of time.

    It’s weird to look around how most people spend their time on a train, and over 50% are their hands on some kind of electric machine, laptop or smartphone, and usually I see them on FB or Instagram. People look me with amusement when I flip out a deck of cards.

    Great article and very inspiring, you have great advices. Going to nature is a better choice than surfing around internet.

    Do you have a podcast on memorizing music? I’ve tried to search but Google gave no results. I’d love to learn memorizing music & songs so I wouldn’t have to sit in front of my computer when rote learning new songs.



    • I’m glad time invested in the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast is paying off, Vesa. And memorizing cards on trains is great because it adds several layers of distraction: noise, people in your field of vision, the sensation of movement. These obstacles are kind of like putting on a cement backpack and doing pushups. You will get stronger as a result of working with them.

      If you look at the reply to Ian on this page, you’ll see that I’ve linked to one post on my site about memorizing music. It’s older, but I’m working now on a full approach based on the MMM. It will be guitar and bass focused, however, with some processes for theory that applies more widely. Is there anything more specific you’re looking for when it comes to memorizing music? 🙂

      • Vesa Närhi says:

        It definitely is paying off. Just by using your method of memorizing cards, I notice dramatic improvement of memory in all other areas, too. It also molds my imagination in a great way, giving a mental boost to my everyday life. So, definitely life changing, as you’ve told us.

        I’ll definitely check out that podcast soon, thanks for the link! The things I’d like to learn & memorize (for guitar) the most importantly, are different modes (or scales) like mixolydian, ionian, aeolian and dorian, plus vast amount of chords & variations of them (like jazz and blues chords).

        Also, I think that learning to read notes would provide a great improvement for musical skill expansion, since rather few great songs are actually arranged into tabs (or even fewer, there aren’t instructional tutorials for learning those songs). So, a method for memorizing tabs & notes I’m looking for, to play them from memory. 🙂

        Cheers, and have a great day.

        • Great to read this, Vesa. Yes, regular card memorization is a game changer on so many levels.

          A full course on memorizing the modes is coming, though it will be from a slightly different angle. It will help with playing any song from memory as well, including chords. As for reading notes, I think the fastest way is to use the traditional Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge-type approach. Memorize a song and then use that system to write it out. The course under development may be able to include ways to mentally change keys too so you could write it out (or play it) differently at will. That’s still in an experimental phase, so please stay tuned! 🙂

  5. Nasos says:

    Awesome article Anthony and a very timely read for me. I’ve been spending more time than I’d like recently on various platforms promoting my blog and podcast, and am putting systems in place to make this more efficient. One part that particularly resonated with me was:

    “The truth is that the machines don’t make us spend our time on them. We determine our own way onto them and into their forests of noise pollution all on our own.”

    This is so true – it’s about taking back control of our lives and building systems that empower us to enjoy life and achieve what we want.

    • Thanks for this, Nasos. It’s cool that you’re promoting, but it’s definitely easy to get tied up in these machines.

      One thing I like to do is have two cups on either side of my computer. They are from my magic case and normally used for the cups and balls routine so look quite nice without being over the top. One is filled with coins and at the beginning of the day, the other is empty. For each completed online promotional task, I move one coin from the full cup to the other one.

      In addition to tracking the time using my tried and true methods, at the end of the day, I know a great deal about how I valued my time. This ritualistic movement also makes it harder to skip from the task at hand to mindless online-wandering. Worth giving a try sometime as you develop your site! 🙂

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