Consuming and managing relevant information has become a considerable challenge for all of us. What to store and what to throw in the trash is a constant juggle. Has too much information pissed you off recently? How much is too much when it comes to consuming information? We live in a digital ocean of information overloaded with vast data, which often leads to feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
How often we get sick with tweets, texts, emails, the endless stream of interesting articles on Facebook, those viral videos we can’t help but click on, the numerous phone photos and videos we take, Secret posts, fleeting Snapchat photos, and more.
Daniel Levitin, McGill University psychology professor and author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload puts it this way, ” But actually, the cognitive flood can be even simpler than that.
While it might seem counterintuitive, people are better at making decisions with fewer options. Having too much information can create major hinderance while you make critical decisions. This can be addressed by many names like infobesity, intoxication, information anxiety, and information explosion. But let’s just call it plainly what it is: information overload.
What Is Information Overload?
Information overload is a well-known phenomenon where we face much information that can make decision-making daunting. This concept was initially coined by social scientist Bertram Gross in his book, The Managing of Organizations, in 1964. However, it gained widespread recognition after publishing the book Future Shock by Alvin and Heidi Toffler in 1970.
The Tofflers argued that information overload occurs when the amount of input we receive exceeds our cognitive processing capacity, resulting in decreased decision quality due to the limited mental processing capacity of decision-makers.
Let’s put it more vibrantly: Remember those old sci-fi movies where a person defeats a tyrannical computer by asking an illogical question? Just like computers, we, too, can experience overload when presented with too much data. Our brains can stall, and our eyes may even roll back in our heads due to the overwhelming number of choices.
Dangers of Information Overload
The adverse effects of having too much information, also known as information overload, have existed as long as humans have collected data. Spiked with technological advances, just like during the Renaissance period where writings were preserved by copying ancient texts. Clearly it stems even further back to the Bible, referred to in the book of Ecclesiastes 12:12, where it’s said, “Of making books there is no end.”
Brain Fog: Have you ever experienced it?
Undoubtedly our brains are powerful tools that we have yet to fully utilize however they have limits. We often push ourselves beyond these limits. We experience cognitive overload, like hitting a mental wall to further feel irritable and poor thinking. This can make us more susceptible to logical fallacies and reduce our ability to make good decisions. Gathering information can be mentally exhausting and drain our energy, leading to decreased productivity and motivation. If this sounds familiar, it may be a symptom of information overload that can cause anxiety.
How to save yourself from Information Overload?
We live in an information-saturated age, and sometimes it is impossible to avoid. Most don’t have the luxury of going off the grid or living in solitude like a monk. But that doesn’t mean one should throw up hands, give up and jump into the endless stream of data to drown in bits and bytes.
There is always a middle path, which is just moderation. It’s a sober way to approach information. It simply means restraint rather than abstinence. The idea that one can avoid information is ridiculous and not practical. But there are ways not to overindulge.
Here are a few ways to avoid information overload anxiety– we don’t want to overwhelm you.
1.Unplug and relax
So many of us spend our work life online on daily basis to swallow huge info chunks and digest large swaths of data. As we reach home we eventually fall into a black hole of the internet or social media t keep sucking up more information.
Show mercy on your brain, get off the computer for a few hours daily, and disable those annoying notifications. Just take time to do nothing. Be lazy. Even avoid newspapers or books. Not every update is for you. Let it reach you through other resources other than your smart devices.
Mindfulness practices, if done under proper guidance, can be very therapeutic. Sit unjudgementally present with your thoughts and feelings as they come and go. This simple technique gives your mind a chance to reboot and recharge its exhausted mental batteries.
2. Manage Your Information
Unplugging might not be an option at work, so you must take another approach. There’s an onslaught of information at work, but that doesn’t mean you must respond immediately when it lands in your inbox.
Be more selective and prioritize your information. When you get an email, check the subject line whether it needs a quick response or if it can be put aside for a while. Dedicate a time period to answer your correspondences. How can you not keep a spam filter to keep the volume to a good flood. These fundamental techniques and tools for email management can save you to feel overwhelm.
3. How about Keeping It Simple?
Duplicated Information is redundant. Why to have a carbon copy of everything to avoid getting the same notice repeatedly. Therefore, do your best to ensure people know how to reach you. Do not let them inundate every channel that can get to you to maintain a cleaner process.
4. Clear Your Mind by doing a “brain dump.”
It works exactly like housework. If you don’t sweep periodically, be ready to deal with menagerie of dust bunnies later. Just by clearing your head, the critical information will be stored in absence of the mental debris. Hence, a regular “brain dump” is an effective way for not letting that pesky information occupy any space in your brain.
5. Set Limits
One problem with information is that today there is always more, and it’s easily accessible. There’s no end to any subject, from respected sources to anecdotal references, expert advice, and commentary to opinions and rants. But you can put an end to that with this.
Give yourself boundaries on which citations are valuable and which are not? There’s something called the two-minute rule, which means spending only two minutes on a task. This is giving yourself limits.
6. Prioritize your sources: Identify the most reliable and relevant sources of information for your needs. Focus on trusted websites, authors, and experts in the respective fields you are interested in. Seeing and watching is not believing every time. There are fake experts, spiritual consultants, creators, companies, and even counterfeit campaigns that churn out fraudulent content to target unaware people. Don’t fall into the trap. You must also check the source of the received information.
7. Practice selective consumption: Be mindful of the information you consume. Selectively pick the topics, articles, or sources that align with your goals and interests. Avoid getting side tracked by clickbait or irrelevant content. Be skeptical, question sources, and fact-check before accepting information as true. This will help you discern accurate information from misinformation or bias.
Mindless scrolling is too dangerous for your mental and emotional well-being. Instead, listen to TED Talks for inspiration and follow the real heroes with stories to tell.
8. Filter your notifications: Customize your notification settings on your devices and apps to receive only essential alerts. Minimize distractions by disabling unnecessary notifications, reducing the number of interruptions, and controlling the flow of incoming information. Switch on your current Google location only when it’s necessary. Remove all shopping apps so you don’t get lured by cheap deals and waste your time and money.
9. Practice digital detox: Set aside dedicated periods when disconnecting from technology. Engage in activities not involving blue screens, such as reading books, spending time in nature, or pursuing hobbies promoting relaxation and mindfulness. I make it a point to spend quality time with my pet dog and care for my plants. Going for a nature walk is another beautiful way to detox your mind and soul.
10. Organize and curate: Create a system for organizing the information you collect. Use tools like bookmarks, folders, or note-taking apps to categorize and store relevant content for future reference. Curate your sources and regularly review and update them to ensure they remain valuable and reliable. You can list the top few tasks you must tackle the next day. Now prioritize the tasks and collect your thoughts about the coming day. This super hack helps you save time and energy on overthinking because you have already started working on it and breathing down your neck.
11. Take regular breaks: Incorporate frequent breaks into your information consumption routine. Short breaks help refresh your mind and prevent mental fatigue. Engage in physical activities, practice mindfulness, or meditate to clear your mind.
12. Focus on deep work: Set aside dedicated time for focused work or learning without distractions. Create a distraction-free environment, remove all the gadgets, and concentrate on one task at a time. Deep work enhances productivity and helps you absorb information more effectively.
13. Plan for The Next Day: Now that you know the art of successfully navigating through a day without being overwhelmed by information. To maintain this level of success, it is recommended to make it a daily habit. It is best to do it before leaving the office or before going to bed if the focus is on personal matters. This disciplined approach will help you keep information overload in check.
14. Practice self-care: Sitting and scrolling or binging on Netflix can make you lonely. You know so many things but will only be able to implement some. Therefore, managing your overall well-being is essential to better handle information overload. Sleep well, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, enjoy and relaxation. A healthy body and mind can better cope with overwhelming information.
Did I give too much information to take in? Hopefully, it’ll prove helpful and make your head clear to handle the day’s work. Tell me which suggestion you liked most?
Once you’ve got the right mindset, the journey ahead to equip yourself with the right tools will be easier.
The silver lining is to find the right balance. Try implementing some of the above strategies to regain control over the information you consume and reduce feeling overwhelmed.
Love from Soul