Information Overload, Pt2 on NPBusiness.ORG

How To Get A Handle On Information Overload, Part2

Most agree there’s too much “stuff” coming at us… from every direction and at every turn.

When is enough, enough? When you’ve had enough; when you know it’s time to take a stand and make a change.

But until then, you’ll be forced to deal with everything coming your way.

Last week’s article introduced the concept of “Filter Failure.” You see, author Clay Shirky doesn’t’ subscribe to information overload. As far as he is concerned, people don’t have any filters in place… that’s the real issue.

Rather than selecting what to consume, too many people read, listen, and watch whatever comes across their feeds and channels. And that can be overwhelming!

But no matter what or who’s to blame, the fact is we’re suffering the effects of too much information.

As a result, people observe that:

  • They get less done because they’re getting sidetracked.
  • They’re less focused, because of too many distractions.
  • They have more difficulty making decisions because of too many choices.

And while many complain of information overload, few are willing to do something about it. Not everybody is ready to limit the amount of information they consume, or how they consume it.

And it doesn’t have to be like this. No one forces us to be on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, scroll through news feeds, or tweet 24/7… it’s up to us.

So are you are ready to push back the wall of information and overwhelm from your life? Good…

Here are few strategies to help you regain control from overload in your personal and professional life. 

Finish What You Start

Are you familiar with the Zeigarnik effect?

While you may not recognize the name, I’m sure you’ve experienced it many times throughout your life.

If you’ve ever said to yourself:

  • I’ve got to finish this…
  • I wish I had time to get back to…
  • I have to remember to do this…

… you’ve experienced the Zeigarnik effect.

Did you know we tend to remember tasks we start but don’t complete, more so than those we finish?

While this is a “very good thing,” it can work against us.

You see, it takes energy to keep track of all the “open loops” in the brain. And, it adds to feeling overwhelmed.

But once you finish what you started, you close the loop. Now the energy that was used to manage the loop is freed up and available for use elsewhere.

So remember, finish what you start.

Your brain will thank you.

Declutter

Get organized…

An organized home reflects an organized mind! And it’s as true for your home as it is for your office.

For example, in Feng Shui, clutter is viewed as trapped energy with far-reaching effects: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Clutter may leave you feeling unorganized, and confused; it keeps you stuck in the past, congests your body, and leaves you feeling lethargic and tired.

Feng Shui refers to clutter as “energy constipation”… and who needs that? Freeing yourself of clutter, even of things once valuable to your life, makes room for what you want and need now.

So, put things away after using them; clean up as you go. Don’t wait, don’t let things accumulate until conditions become overwhelming.

Aside from getting visually distracted, having clutter surround you, takes up too much energy. Granted it’s mental and emotional energy, but it all adds up.

Bottom line is this; when there is too much clutter, it will be hard to focus on the task at hand. It’s all too easy to get sidetracked and distracted by the clutter around you.

FOMO

Don’t allow FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out, to seep into your life. While all of us experience FOMO from time to time, it seems to be more prevalent now than it used to be.

In part, social media is blamed for the phenomenon.

It’s akin to the “Grass is always Greener…” experience… “What you have must be better than what I have.

But FOMO goes beyond it. FOMO includes

  • feeling left out because others know something we don’t.
  • feeling left behind because others can take advantage of opportunities, not available to us

And let’s face it, it doesn’t feel good to be left out of the loop, or to be excluded from opportunities.

Some experts suggest that FOMO goes back to our tribal roots, where being “left out” may have threatened survival.

When FOMO rears its ugly head, stand your ground.

Consider taking a break from social media or other triggers that make you feel left out. And instead, focus on all the abundance you have in your life now.

Social Media

Social media is the big kahuna, the tsunami of information overload!

And it isn’t just one; there are too many social media platforms competing for your attention and time.

Social media, particularly Facebook may be the biggest culprit when it comes to feeling stressed and overwhelmed. It’s just so easy to spend big chunks of time randomly browsing, scrolling…

And fifty minutes later, you remember there’s still that report you have to finish before going home!

If uncontrolled, social media can be a huge drain on your time and productivity. Here are a few steps to put you back in control:

  • Limit the number of social media platforms you join.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend on social media each day.
  • Turn off social media notifications.
  • Consider uninstalling the app from your phone (…I did say “consider”)
  • Clean up your profile; unfollow people you don’t care to see or hear from; and those you’re no longer in touch with.

Just taking these few steps will cut down social media overload and overwhelm.

Stop Kidding Yourself

Stop kidding yourself about multitasking!

True multitasking can be destructive, drain your mental clarity, and cut down on productivity. It doesn’t work when you’re trying to complete multiple complex tasks, all at once.

But chances are you’ve tried it before.

Perhaps you’re working on completing a chart, when you’re MA drops a report on your desk. You’ve been waiting for that report and start to read it, all while continuing the chart; or so you think!

But before you know it, you’ve stopped working on the chart (if only for a moment) to read pieces of the report. Because focusing on two or more complex tasks at once is difficult, if possible altogether.

But that’s not to say you can’t multitask at all, as long as you settle for less complexity.

For example, you can talk to a friend while doing your grocery shopping. Or, you can cook a meal and listen to a recording…

Multitasking with simpler activities is not only possible, but it also helps you accomplish more in less time.

In Summary

Managing mountains of information will be an ongoing challenge for all of us. But now you know it’s possible, and you have a set of strategies to draw from.

Examine the filters you have in place and how you consume information; look at the choices you make. Then decide what you’re willing to change to reduce information overload and overwhelm in your life.

 

Do you find yourself struggling with too much information? If so, what do you do to handle it?

Share your strategies with us; we’d love to find out what you do. Just leave us your comment below.

 

By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.”

 

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