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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 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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