Information overload was a problem a decade ago. Today’s it’s far worse; information never ends. KARYN GREENSTREET shares ideas on how to manage the ongoing issue.
Have you ever had that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more bit of information into your brain will render you senseless?
That’s information overload, which causes distress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never get to completely implement all our great ideas.
Worse, later on, we can’t seem to put our finger on the important information that we’ve gathered!
Here’s more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for physical and emotional health!)
Here are seven ways you can manage information overload and regain control of your brain, time and tasks.
One: Remember the most important rule.
You are in charge of your ‘To Do’ list. That’s the most important rule. You are in charge of your calendar and how much information you’re willing to process each day.
Taking multiple classes at once or trying to read more than one book at a time is a recipe for information overload. It doesn’t give you any time to assimilate and implement. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
Two: Get things out of your head and onto paper.
When absorbing new information, the brain naturally processes it, establishes connections, and applies it to real life. Trying to keep all that ‘thinking’ in your brain can make you feel muddled, anxious, and confused. Do a brain dump by writing down your ideas – even in a quick list format – which helps clear your mind.
Three: Make a ‘Top 3 Action Items’ list
Take the most recent class you’ve attended or a book you’ve read to start developing your list.
Don’t create a massive ‘To Do’ list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, pick the top three actions you can accomplish within a month and write down those tasks on your list. And once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more.
The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
Four: Make the decision to make a decision.
Sounds silly, right? However, if ideas and information are running around in your head and you cannot decide whether to act on them or ignore them, you sabotage yourself and fall into a perpetual state of overload.
Stop doing that and instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel better right away.
Five: When drowning in information, stop piling more.
It’s okay to stop watching the evening news, reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what?
More information is shoved in your face.
By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
Six: Use tools such as Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information.
Storing information is crucial and retrieving it easily is even more important. That’s why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles.
Evernote lets you tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas readily available.
I have Evernote on every PC and device — whenever I have an idea, I jot it down immediately. Because it’s on every computer, I can access information anytime and anywhere — so I don’t have to keep it in my brain.
Seven: Do you have competing goals? Do it one at a time.
For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: writing this article, creating my class schedule for the next nine months, and designing a class agenda for a new program.
All these tasks are exciting and need to be done soon. They each require research and focus to process incoming information, but only one had a deadline- writing this article.
So, I put the other things on the back burner and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once done, I’ll choose one of the remaining tasks to work on. You have to be willing to let go of some information, so you can focus on your priorities.