Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?
Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never seem to get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!
Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)
Here are 10 tips for managing information overload so you regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks:
- Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list and YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Don’t set yourself up for information overload by trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time without setting up “assimilate and implement” time. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
- Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take in a lot of information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. When you try to keep all that thinking in your brain, you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump and writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format, will help clear things out.
- Practice OMD: Off My Desk. I have a bad habit of collecting thoughts on bits of paper, which form massive piles on my desk. Once a month, I have an OMD hour…every bit of paper gets looked at and acted upon, and then the paper gets filed or tossed, clearing space on my desk and in my brain.
- Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three things that you can take action on within a month, and put only those three things on your Action Items list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
- Make a decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel immediately better.
- Stop saying, “I’m too distracted to focus.” Choosing to focus on one goal or one task is a decision you make. You are perfectly capable of focusing and getting things done, but you’ve got to train yourself to do it. It takes practice, and reminding yourself that you are choosing to focus on one thing instead of allowing yourself to get sidetracked. Don’t buy into the cultural slide of “I’m too distracted.” You’re better than that. Step up to the plate. If you want to be successful, you have to do what successful people do: focus. Focus is a decision. Focus is a skill you can learn and enhance.
- When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
- Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important, which is why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas you’ve accumulated at your fingertips.
- Make a conscious choice to prioritize the information you allow into your brain. Let’s say for a moment you’re on Facebook and you see a link to an interesting article. STOP RIGHT THERE. Ask yourself: Is this article merely interesting or is it really, truly important? Do I have time to read interesting-but-not-important information right now? How will this article help me achieve my overall goals? By making choices about what to pay attention to, you automatically take yourself out of information overload. The beautiful thing about information is that it’s always available: whenever you are ready to read about a certain subject, information about that subject is just a Google search away.
- Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done and all required research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post. So I put the other things on the back burner, and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose ONE of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.
I believe in you. I believe you are capable of learning what you need to learn in order to have a successful business. I believe you will find time in your day for all that needs to be done. I believe your dream is so important that you’ll move mountains to get it. I believe you can move mountains, with focus, perseverance and strength.
I’d love to hear from you: how to you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?
15 Responses to “10 Tips for Managing Information Overload”
Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
Tags: information overload , overwhelm , productivity