When we were growing up there was no such thing as information overload, but in today’s high-speed digital world it is not unusual for us to have multiple email, social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook) and text messaging accounts — for work and for personal use. It’s hard NOT to have our minds bogged down with news, messages, trivia and the like!
All of this is more information than the brain is configured to handle. The conscious mind can pay attention to three, maybe four, things at once. If you get much beyond that, you begin to exercise poorer judgment, you lose track of things and you lose your focus.
How to Take Control of Information Overwhelm
Dealing with this information overload is something that many entrepreneurs, managers and leaders struggle with every day. There’s just SO much data involved in doing our jobs. Sometimes it feels impossible to stay on top of everything.
This becomes a problem because we deal with this influx without any preparation, training or time! Often we find it difficult to process the flood of information – we feel as though we’re drowning, struggling to find time for more important tasks.
But there’s a silver lining! Fortunately, we can employ some strategies to become more productive and even enjoy the information.
Master your Time
Information management is similar to time management. You have to be disciplined about how much time you are spending on information processing.
Here are some other blogs we’ve written about time management – remember it’s your most valuable and limited resource.
You can do this by choosing and filtering specific emails, blogs, feeds, tweets or FB requests to follow or respond.
If you have a VA this is an ideal job to outsource – otherwise spend a little time yourself on this and reap long-term benefits.
Prioritize your most important tasks. Only focus on data that is absolutely relevant to your job. Delete everything else.
If you really are struggling to stay on top of the data that your job presents you with, streamline your reading material as much as you can. Clear your desk and your head as much as you can. You can always come back to them later when you’ve got everything else under control.
This is not a one-time activity – many successful people choose to start their day by setting priorities and then working in a disciplined way towards the achievement of these each day.
Organize and Separate
Divide your work-related emails from your personal social media subscriptions. You can even organize your social media accounts to enable you to focus better.
Remove the time-wasting information. At work this means taking out tasks that are not be measured or assessed.
Far more on this subject here –
Follow the ‘Pareto principle’
The Pareto principle is a principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, that specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. The principle states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.
So, in this case – 20% of the information you receive holds 80% of the information you actually need.
The real trick is in recognising this 20% as the most valuable.elf and shape the expectations of those around you, including your line manager, to become more focused and manage the overwhelming information.
Listen to your gut
Being ambiguous is still relevant. Aim to develop your gut instincts along with your knowledge – both will stand you in a very good stead.
Don’t avoid making decisions by seeking even more information – this often just makes it more difficult to do so. The ability to choose a path is an important skill.
Limit Surfing and Procrastination
It can be incredibly seductive as you go deeper from one page to another and each link seeming more relevant. However, you often pick up all the information you need in a few hits, the following being less so especially when the time taken is considered.
It can be useful to schedule some “down time” to procrastinate – this may actually lead to creative inspiration!
Saying NO does not harm. Just remember to be polite but assertive and sensible. Take control over what passes over your desk.
Escape by completely disconnecting yourself from the Internet, and shutting off your phone when you want concentration and focus. Anyone who needs to speak to you urgently will always find a way of getting through.
Remember you own yourself and your decisions. Your information intake capacity is in your hands. You simply need to prepare yourself and shape the expectations of those around you, to become more focused and manage the amount of information you chose to expose yourself to.
Don’t try and handle everything yourself. Your business will best be served by you doing what you’re good, and efficient, at and, identifying and outsourcing, delegating or automating the other tasks.
Although it can be difficult to relinquish control initially, you will be amazed at how much more time you have when you get some help.
Take Control of Information Overwhelm starting today with these simple habits – you may even find more leisure time too!