So what is information overload? According to Alvin Toffler, author of Megatrends, he said that information overload is, “An excess amount of information being provided, making processing and absorbing tasks very difficult for the individual because sometimes we cannot see the validity behind the information.”
There is so much information out there between websites, e-mails, newsletters, magazines, Twitter, Facebook and other sources. If you regularly expose yourself to all of this, you may be at risk of experiencing information overload. When this happens, you may have difficulty focusing or retaining information you would otherwise consider vital. In some cases, it can feel as if you’re reading a book too fast and are only able to grasp bits and pieces. This can decrease productivity which may lead to a cycle of having to do even more in order to catch up. how do you utilize all of this information effectively and not get overwhelmed by it?
7 Tips for Fighting Information Overload
- Spot the signs. Feel alone even as you communicate with people all day? That’s a signal technology is dominating your life.
- Take baby steps. Try being inaccessible for short spurts to see what happens. The world probably won’t implode.
- Repeat these four words: “I have a choice.” People who say, “I have to check my Facebook all the time or my friends/clients will think I don’t care” are likely exaggerating the control others have over them.
- Set limits. Rein in office e-mail and instant message traffic. Who truly needs 35 daily FYIs on the Henderson case?…
- Give clear instructions. Try an e-mail signature that reads “I answer e-mail at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. If you need a quicker response, please call.”
- Make a task list. If you’re interrupted, you’ll get back to work faster if you have one.
- Stick to a schedule. Handle recreational Web surfing and e-mail at set times. Dipping in and out is classic self-interruption.
Here is an approach that may be helpful in avoiding an information overload:
Prioritize, select, restrict and elect. Or using an acronym: PSRE.
Make a plan for your day. Even though some people have unavoidably chaotic schedules, finding the time to predict when you have downtime is a good start towards a more organized daily routine. Plan out times for web surfing, work, sleep, and play. This may sound silly at first, but once you understand where your time is being spent currently, you can better work out a less stressful schedule.
Try Not to Take on Too Much
One of the biggest causes of information overload is simply taking on more than you can handle. Prioritize what’s important and what’s not! You may find yourself stressed about potentially failing to get everything done in a sec period of time. Taking on too much can lead to seemingly endless multitasking that wears on someone over time and can ultimately lead to a shut down in productivity. Keep everything you agree to do scheduled and try your hardest not to double-book yourself too often.
Limit the Amount of Things you can focus on at One Time
Having fifty tabs open and trying to get too much done at once can lead to you ultimately getting nothing done in the end. Obtaining and retaining information is easier when it isn’t mixed in with unrelated content. Having music on can help drown out the distractions around you and improve your focus, though playing videos, checking your friends status updates, and checking the news all while trying to get work done can be overwhelming and counterproductive.
Make Time to Unplug
For some, taking time to unplug from the web on a regular basis can be very beneficial. This gives you time to gather your thoughts, reduces eye strain and fatigue, and can give you a new perspective on whatever it is you’re working on when you return. If you’re a blogger experiencing writer’s block, go to the store or get some chores done. It might be the trick to clearing the cobwebs and getting you back on track. Vacations are a great opportunity to unplug and unwind.
Utilize Otherwise Wasted Time Differently
How many times can you listen to the same five songs on the radio during your commute? Use this time to listen to an audiobook or think about your plans for the day. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted, just remember that you can replace unproductive activity with something more substantial.