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How To Be Smarter In The Age Of Information Overload

How To Be Smarter In The Age Of Information Overload

Remember the movie Forrest Gump and the scene when he was focused on just running that he ran across America several times? Yes, we know that he’s just a fictional character but if there’s anything to learn from this, it is to stay focused amidst distractions.

How many times have you been assigned a challenging task only to have your focus broken by intermittent distractions from your friends, colleagues, smartphone notifications, and even your bosses? Steve Jobs once said that the single most important trait when developing a product is Focus, and the only way to do that is to learn to say no.

The age of information overload comes naturally with advances in social media and communications technology, and we will fall victim to it if we let it change our way of thinking to one that is shallow and fragmented. Don’t let yourself devolve under the age of information and check out these tips to emerge smarter among the information clutter.

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1. Keep the bigger picture in mind

By constantly keeping the bigger picture in mind, it is less likely for our minds to wander off and give attention to other less important details. By having a top down thought process instead of one that is bottom up, we will be able to stay focused on the main objective and not be bogged down by a countless number of small details.

To put it into practice, you can write out the top 5 things you would like to focus on just before you start the day. For instance, the CEO of Get Satisfaction, Wendy Lea emails her team the top 5 things she will be focusing on for the week, to keep everyone in line and focused.

2. Picking out the best bits

We always seem to have this misconception that putting a 100 percent effort to every detail will make us better managers or workers. In fact, so much time is wasted on processing 97% of the material we are reading, when only 3% are of use to us.

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Learn to pick out the best bits of information by constantly asking yourself about what you want to get out of the information. For example, if you are reading an article on staying focused, go straight to the best bits and constantly ask yourself, “what is the best way of staying focused that will work well for me?” instead of getting lost in all the filler.

3. Stay Objective

It is easy for us to be too subjective when we apply selective reading, especially during busy times. When we are on a roll, we wish that all the information is favorable to us, so that we wouldn’t have to pause to think much about it. Because of this, we omit the negative yet important details out, to a certain extent.

Always keep an open mind to never leave out any information that is beyond our perspective and learn to seek out new points of view.

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4. Meditate

Meditation is being frowned upon because of some underlying misconceptions about it. Firstly, because humans are all result driven, we tend to expect something out of everything we do, and most of the time, meditation doesn’t allow you to reap instant rewards. Secondly, we give up too easily when we hit a brick wall or if something we do seems futile.

Instead, learn to use an object of attention such as your breathing, chanting or an image, and if a thought interjects, embrace it, refrain from being frustrated and slowly refocus on the object of attention. The purpose of meditation is to find the quiet between thoughts, which is pure silence and concentration, and with much practice, it can be more frequently achieved.

5. Never Multitask

Studies have shown that it takes about 25 minutes for the average human to refocus on a challenging task and to get back into the “flow” after getting distracted. Especially in the age of information overload, multitasking is counter-productive and tiresome. In fact, a study was conducted by Stanford University researchers showing that multitasking kills your performance and even damages your brain.

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Learn to say no if the distraction is a subordinate job, and also learn to close your doors when focusing on a challenging task at hand. You can always come back to the smaller issues that are not too urgent after the primary job of the day is done.

Featured photo credit: Suit Wedding via pexels.com

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Lim Kairen

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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