I Want Quality to Kick Quantity's Ass
October 31, 2008 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Help me extract more quality from the quantity of the Information Age, especially as regards my leisure time.

I recently received a promotion that seemed initially fortuitous but is now eating up more and more hours in my day with every passing week. In that context, I find myself newly wondering: how do I, amidst the overwhelming mass of life and leisure options already offered up by the Information Age, best separate the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the crop, and the ones from the zeros? In other (less cheeky) words: how can I distill the most quality out of the ginormous quantity of shite that bombards us every day, when I - like you, no doubt - have less and less leisure time as it is?

Here are some examples of strategies I'm already implementing (or contemplating) toward this end: 1) I generally won't see a movie anymore unless it has a 60+ rating on metacritic.com (after all, two lost hours is too much to risk on a crap film in today's time-starved world). 2) Rather than watching a news program, I'm starting to think, "If any part of this show is REALLY good or noteworthy, I'll read about it later on a message board or see it on youtube." 3) Yes, I already own a Tivo, and it is a must for time-crunched leisure obsessives like myself (by fast-fwding between plays, I can watch an entire football game in under 45 minutes!). 4) When I'm reading a really old ask.mefi question, sometimes I only read the answers that were favorited (scandalous, I know).

Stuff like that. My interests are wide-ranging, so any tip that the hive mind has to offer about maximizing QPM (quality per minute) is likely to help, regardless of the subject matter or medium.

(p.s. I've read a ton of threads here about GTD and maximizing efficiency, so I'm not looking for that kind of info per se.)
posted by antisocialstudies to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1. Give yourself permission to NOT see every movie.

2. Give yourself permission to NOT see every TV show.

3. Give yourself permission to NOT read every book.

4. Give yourself permission to STOP reading a book/LEAVE a theater/turn OFF the TV if what you've started watching isn't doing it for you.

In short -- just relax and trust your gut, and don't try so hard to have read/watched/seen everything. Millions of people in the world live in nations where they cannot get The Daily Show on television, and they still manage to live a complete life. It's not school any more; it's not a competition. No one's keeping score any more. Just relax and focus on pleasing yourself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:35 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

5. Give yourself permission to NOT read MeFi (and other favorite websites) every day. And when you do skip one or more days, then come back, give yourself permission to NOT read everything you missed.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:41 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I use Google Reader to stay up to date with things that interest me. I've sorted my feeds in 3 categories, somewhat arbitrarily named fast, medium, and procrastinate. The idea is that if I only have a couple of minutes to catch up, I just read the fast folder. On Sundays I tend to go deep in the procrastinate folder. I also get to promote and demote feeds, which is fun.
posted by dhoe at 8:55 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding using Google Reader for everything. I almost never visit websites anymore (even MeFi, unless I'm commenting). I can scan hundreds of sites/blogs at once and not have to read or scroll, or even wait for sites to load.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:19 AM on October 31, 2008

It sounds like you're making work out of your leisure time. The previous posters have some good ideas, so I just want to emphasize RELAX.

Quality per minute? How do you even measure that? In any given leisure moment, you're either happy with the way that you are spending your time, or you're not. If you are, then keep on keepin' on. If you are not, then just move on.
posted by owtytrof at 9:45 AM on October 31, 2008

Put a limit on the number of hours that you allow the job to consume. Otherwise, it seems you're asking us how you can maintain your current level of cultural immersion while having a job that takes up all your time. It's a zero-sum game so you're going to have to draw some lines.
posted by rhizome at 10:18 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ditch things. Lots of them. If you miss them or what they were adding to your mental landscape enough to dig them up and add them back, add them back.

That might sound simplistic, but it's cut down on a lot for me. Some of the things to go have been the more mainstream, which I felt a bit obliged to follow, but they weren't adding to my life. (If you have to know where the catchphrase du jour comes from, this might not work for you, although then I'd have a follow-up question: why, really?)
posted by carbide at 11:04 AM on October 31, 2008

I think the web provides you easy solutions to filter the content you see everyday. I don't think you need too much advice with that; Google reader was a good suggestion.

I think you should spend your limited leisure time getting away from the things you mention. This can mean any number of things from hiking to biking, wining and dining, or joining a club to meet people that you can expand your world view through a simple conversation.

Get away from the jet stream of info. Life is too short to be consumed by it.
posted by Macallister Vagabond at 12:04 PM on October 31, 2008

I recall reading a mythTV plugin that would speed up playback by something like 10 percent. Not enough that you'd notice the difference. Works for podcasts too apparently.

There are services available to turn RSS feeds into spoken form so you can listen while walking or driving, but I'm pretty sure they just use Festival to do the heavy lifting. I've been meaning to improve the voices available in Ubuntu's version of festival.

Another way to improve leisure time is to have more of it. Reduce your hours at work, take public transportation to work and use the significantly reduced attention demand to watch, read or listen. Pay someone to do any housework you might need done.

But probably you're looking for ways to filter what you already have. Yahoo! Pipes can probably be made to bend RSS feeds towards your goals, by using one of those social bookmarking sites. Normally social bookmarking sites like digg and reddit wind up serving you more and more information; but you could use them to filter out low rated entries on your current feeds somehow. You could probably train a Bayesian filter to sniff out interesting posts from RSS.
posted by pwnguin at 3:45 PM on October 31, 2008

Is it really that important that you watch so many movies, all the news, and the games? I thought the whole point is that these things are ways to entertain you during down time. Cut back on the TV and movies - your life won't be less fulfilling just because you're catching fewer flicks each month.
posted by junesix at 4:39 PM on October 31, 2008

Quit reading your RSS feeds and only visit the sites that you remember the URL to and actively miss. RSS once seemed like such a time-saver, but for me it became a morass of useless information.
posted by Pinwheel at 4:40 PM on October 31, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input so far, everyone.

Just to clarify: I'm not really looking to see EVERY movie/show/band/news item, etc; I'm merely looking for better ways to ensure that what time I do spend with entertainment or information actually translates into quality time spent. How do you guys and gals minimize the filler in in your free time and find the best of what the Info Era is currently hurling at us?

And while I appreciate those who are advocating that I not be so obsessive about this problem or even turn my back on it entirely, what I'm really looking for is advice on how I can swim more easily amongst the raging infostream as opposed to having to get out of the water completely. (But to be fair, I do have a touch of the OCD, so such constructive criticism is not completely unwarranted).

I dunno - maybe there is no magic bullet for this. I just hoped the metafilterians would have some nifty lifehacks that they've found that improved the quality of their leisure consumption.

(also for the record, I do use Google Reader but find that sometimes it does more harm than good. Ditto with social bookmarking. However, ideas like the ones pwnguin offered up are definitely the kinds of things I'm looking for here)
posted by antisocialstudies at 5:45 PM on October 31, 2008

PostRank filters RSS feeds for the best posts based on popularity. It's not perfect, but I use it to increase quality and decrease quantity of busy feeds.
posted by cnc at 12:27 AM on November 1, 2008

How do you guys and gals minimize the filler in in your free time and find the best of what the Info Era is currently hurling at us?

...By just...doing what sounds interesting, and not donig what doesn't, and stopping when I've started something and found it boring.

It really is that simple, I promise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 PM on November 1, 2008

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