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 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 7 tips for managing information overload
Regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks with these ideas:
- Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list. YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time, is a recipe for information overload. It doesn’t allow you any time to assimilate and implement. 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 new information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. Trying to keep all that “thinking” in your brain makes you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump — writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format — will help clear things out.
- 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 actions you can take within a month, and put only those tasks on your To Do 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 the 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 better immediately.
- 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. That’s 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 at your fingertips. The best part is I have Evernote on every PC and device — whenever I have a thought, I have a place to jot it down immediately. Because it’s on every computer, I can access information anytime I need it — so I don’t have to keep it in my brain.
- 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 soon. All require research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post today. 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.