information overload, cognitive overload, dealing with information overload, overwhelm, overcoming overwhelm

We live in an amazing age – anything we need to know is right here, at our fingertips. We don’t go to libraries to look through volumes of books anymore; we get our answers as soon as we type in the question. But with the convenience of technology comes the curse of too much information. We get buried in research, always discovering new facts, tips and strategies without taking the time to do anything with them. So how can we make the information age work for us and not against us?

Decide what’s important right now

Take some time to determine your priorities. What projects are you working on? What do you need to know in your personal life? What will support your hobby or passion? Make a short list of what’s important to you. Then when something catches your attention, check against your list. If the information is not related to any of your priorities, you can let it go for now.

Be selective

After you’ve determined what’s important, only choose a handful of resources to help you. Buy a couple of books, subscribe to a few of the best newsletters and unsubscribe from anything else. Or simply ignore it; there’s no reason why you should read every single email in your inbox. Once you know a little bit, move on with what you need to do applying what you’ve just learned. You can always come back for more information, if you get stuck.

Set a time limit

There’s always more to read on any subject, so it helps to set a limit on how much time you spend on researching and learning. Put research time on your calendar, so that you mind knows that it is going to get its next information dose (yes, information can be addictive!), then stick to your schedule.

Be organised

If, like me, you’re interested in everything and anything, you’ll probably find it very hard to be selective. When you’re drawn to something that doesn’t serve you right now, you may feel better if you save it for later rather than let it go completely. There are numerous ways to do this – use apps like Evernote, create email folders or even write in an old-fashioned notebook. The key is to have a place where you can store that curious piece of information so that you can come back to it later. The chances are, you’ll probably never look for it again, but just knowing that it’s there for you puts your mind at ease and lets you move on with the task at hand.

Learn to focus

Allowing yourself to focus on one task will not only make you more productive, it will also give your mind a break from information clutter. If you’re working on a computer and you don’t think you have the discipline to just stick with your work, apps like the Self Control App can help by temporarily blocking access to websites that are time wasters.

Take breaks

Often when we feel like our heads are going to explode and we’re not getting anywhere, we just push harder. It seems counterintuitive, but what’s more effective in this situation is to take a break. Go for a walk in the sun, play with your kids or meditate, then come back to your task with renewed energy.

Take longer breaks regularly. Spend one day a week (or if that freaks you out, one day a month) offline. It may be challenging, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll feel reenergised, more at peace and more connected to what really matters to you.

Image by robinams via pixabay.com

By Tatiana Apostolova