Why I never read the news in the morning

Approximately 438,000 minutes. 

That's my rough estimate of how much time I've spent reading the news "online" every morning since I started using the internet regularly back in 1995 (don't ask how I came up with this number!). 

I'm bringing this up because this 20-year habit came to an abrupt end a few months ago, when I completely stopped reading the news in the morning and even switched off the "news alerts" on my phone and email. 

An obvious question would be: "why do such a thing? Isn't information power? Isn't information core to high performance"? 

The answer to both questions is "yes", but with a caveat: not "all" information is core to high performance, and certainly not the news about some atrocity somewhere in the world. 

Don't get me wrong: I do agree that you should be aware of what's happening in the world - but acquiring that knowledge does have its time and place. 

But my post is not about "wasting time reading the news when you could be doing something productive".  

My post is about the "effect" of reading the news on your performance during the rest of the day

Numerous studies over the years have looked at the impact of "exposure to negative news" on cognitive (brain) function as well as stress levels and mood. 

As this recent article from the Harvard Business Review discussesexposure to negative news in the morning has a significant impact lasting hours into your day

In fact, their study revealed that people exposed to negative news broadcasts in the morning experienced an almost 30% drop in mood 6 to 8 hours later! I don't believe that I have to convince you that "being in a bad mood" will make you pretty much useless at work (even worse in social contexts). 

By contrast, their study also showed that those exposed to "inspirational stories of success" benefited from a boost in mood (and probably productivity and interaction). 

In fact, I was tempted not to publish this post yet because I recently came across another study which revealed that exposure to negative news resulted in a 30% decline (approx.) in cognitive test results in people! The problem is that my browser crashed when I was reading it and now I can't find it anymore! (I'll update this post with the link once I find it again). 

Another thing to take into account is the following: being exposed to negative (upsetting) news triggers a hormonal reaction in your body: putting you in "fight or flight" mode by elevating Adrenaline, Cortisol and Insulin, increasing blood pressure, shutting down lipolysis (fat burning)de-emphasizing sexual and digestive functions, etc. all to prepare your body to "fight" or "run". 

Your body does not recognize the difference between "physical stress" and "emotional stress", as the biochemical processes triggered by both are very similar. This is why people with high stress jobs are at a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, stroke and diabetes. 

It suffices to say that if you're looking for higher productivity in your day, you need to have a better overall mood and improved social skills: stay away from reading (or listening to/watching) the news in the morning. Rather read some inspirational stories of overcoming challenges to set the tone for your day. 

This is what I do (as a suggestion):

  • My morning readings are limited to: a book, research articles or papers, blogs I follow (several of which will include inspirational stories)

  • News alerts are switched off on all my devices (including emails)

  • During my workout and, later on, on my way to work, I'll listen to podcasts or an audiobook, all having something constructive to add to my day

  • If there is something major in the news that I "have to know", I use a tip from Tim Ferris: I walk up to my team and ask "so, what's new in the world today?" and get the 30 seconds summary

  • In the afternoon, I will dedicate time to reading the news (because I'm curious by nature and because one should be aware of even the most atrocious things happening in our world, whether we can individually do something about it or not)

  • However I will always take a 10min walk after reading the news to clear my head before refocusing on the rest of my day

  • I never watch the news at night either! My cortisol is high enough from work-related stress, what's the point of spiking it even higher, disrupting sleep and putting my health at risk? 

Good luck! 

Tony Hchaime