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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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