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Dealing with Information Overload

Dealing with Information Overload
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    In a world full of information we seem to be constantly toggling between managing all the new impressions we get on a daily basis and feeling totally overwhelmed by information overload. With the arrival of the Internet we were told that things would become easier – less paper clutter to worry about and more time to enjoy life.

    But this isn’t so, as we’ve all found out in recent years. Paper clutter en masse, email inboxes bursting with unanswered mails, tasks pending for the sheer pressure of having too much to do – you name it, it has all become part of our reality.

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    Modern technology is the cause of all (evil)

    Since the invention of the Internet, we have to deal with a lot more information than ever before. One reason is the need to keep backup files of everything. After all, we think, when our hard drive crashes we have nothing left. So we create masses of duplicate copy to be sure “just in case”. Also the readiness of information is mind numbing at times. We feel overwhelmed with where to look and what to do. So on we go on with the quest of finding success nirvana, only to turn in circles.

    Modern life has also brought a never ending influx of choices like private TV channel subscriptions, TV gaming, SMS, mobile phones, RSS subscriptions, a never-ending stream of offline and online publications, our favorite blogs and websites, and more.

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    Despite their intentions, these inventions have not just served to make life easier. The irony here is that they have actually made life harder — creating information overload and the added pressure of being reachable 24/7.

    Gone are the days when I was a little girl waiting for a great book to be published or channel surfing the 5 or so TV channels we had in those days. Back then we weren’t ruled by information at all. It was actually a lot harder to come by information which gave us plenty of breathing space.

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    Dealing with information overload has become a by-product of living in a digital age and the problem won’t go away fast.

    However, I have found simple ways to help me keep control on my information intake. It is the only way for me to deal with this, otherwise I would go mental.

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    Data control and how you can master it

    To take control of the influx of constant data that enters your life, you can do several things. These are all easy to implement and will make a huge difference in how you deal with the information that enters your mind.

    Much like a computer, we only have space for so much, until our own hard drive (mind) starts to act up. If it is overloaded, then our system management will shut down one by one until…

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    Take these action steps to deal with information overload:

    • Email: Since most of us are using the Internet, we will need to take measures to get back in control. To start with, we need to ruthlessly eliminate all the non-relevant stuff that sits in our inbox. Those “later” things are not important enough to keep clogging up space. Also be strict with the time you devote to your email inbox. One hour a day should be more than ample for most.
    • TV: TV probably accounts for a huge deal of information overload. Despite the fact that we watch TV to relax, it is actually counter productive as we soak up a lot of information through our subconscious.
    • Mobile Phones: I know, it’s pretty cool to be the proud owner of the latest gadget mobile phone. I also love gadgets but regardless of how cool they look and how sexy they feel, I turn my mobile off at night and sometimes even during the day. The reason I bought a mobile phone in the first place was to be able to call others in case I was stranded somewhere. Plus the annoyance of getting more and more call center calls to my mobile only makes me more determined to hit that off switch.
    • Unwatched Recorded Shows: Uhh, yeah, I used to be a sucker for not missing my favorite show to the extent of recording them, only to end up with days’ worth of recording and not enough time to watch them all. Take a hint – throw them in the bin.
    • RSS Feeds: With the invention of RSS feeds we were supposed to be saving time, reading our favorite blogs. The reality however looks a lot different. Because it is so easy to hit that subscribe button, we now do ourselves another dis-service by subscribing to a gazillion blogs we don’t even like anyway. I clean out my RSS feeds at least once a month. Those I haven’t read in that time will have to go.
    • Backups: Are essential for anybody who uses a computer and stores data. To keep control of the backed up data, why not burn all the photos and videos onto a DVD? It will take up less storage than having to buy more and more external HDs to keep backing up. Also, one backup should normally be enough and for those of us who need two, maybe a written copy (passwords, login data) will be more useful.
    • Meditate: I purposely left this for last, since meditation can help us immensely with information overload. Preferably you will want to meditate once a day just before bed. Even if it is just for 5 minutes, with meditation we can stop that ever constant chatter that goes on in our head and indulge into the restful sleep we so desperately need.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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