When we think about information overload, we quickly go to our inbox as a major source of mental clutter and stress. Not only is the number of e-mails in our inbox a source of pressure, but also the feeling that this pressure is caused externally by others: someone, somewhere sent us something that we now need to deal with. These others can be colleagues, clients, friends, family, as well as newsletters (requested or not) from a whole range of organizations or groups, as well as unsolicited or commercial spam. There is a feeling of lack of control about all this digital clutter that requires our attention.
But what about the information overload and stress from it that we cause to ourselves? An intention of 10 distracting minutes on our social media/news platform of choice very rapidly turns into 30 to 60 minutes, leaving us wondering where that time has gone? And as we become increasingly familiar with the manipulative nature of the technology to keep us on the platforms for as long as possible, we again feel a sense of loss of our own agency. And our usual pattern of giving ourselves a hard time kicks in, our internal critic gets involved, and we cause a whole new layer of mental clutter that we now need to deal with.
So let’s claim that agency back! Here are 3 simple steps to follow (to be repeated as often as necessary):
- pay careful attention to what you are currently spending your valuable brain capacity on
- with this awareness, decide what needs to change and how you will do that
- make it happen! (and knowing that you’re in control, you can make it as easy as it sounds)
Feel free to enlist the help of others (friends, colleagues, professionals, technology even) to keep you accountable to the goals you set yourself until they become your new habit. And if you want to spend 2 hours reading the news, that’s OK, just as long as you have actively chosen to do so, and you do it with full awareness of how you are spending your time.
Today’s IORG Guest Post is from Ingrid Pope, Mind De-Clutterer and Executive Coach. After a 16 year career in Corporate IT, Ingrid works with leaders and executives who operate in highly complex environments, who are overworked and are constantly juggling between getting the tasks done versus looking after their people. In the process they have lost the focus of what is important and needs attention – quite often themselves.
Ingrid’s mission is to de-clutter the world of everything that gets in the way of our effectiveness, our focus, and our life by creating space to think, to work, to live. https://creatingspacecoaching.co.uk/
More so than usual as we exit 2020 and enter the new year most of us are looking forward to letting go and leaving behind anything that no longer serves our purpose. This may include physical stuff that we clean out of closets and drawers, digital information overload, and the clutter of thoughts stored in our mind. Clutter drains our energy, stifles creativity, and leads to loss of focus and productivity. Now is a good time to purge what you no longer need and only retain the possessions, information and thoughts that serve your purpose, and more importantly bring joy to your life.
I recently realized that my extensive email filing system that I used to sort and store thousands of gigabytes of information a day for future use was an absolute failure. I was letting too much information in and getting lost in the noise from information overload. Following minimalist Joshua Becker’s advice, I realized that the first step in crafting a life that you want is to get rid of everything you do not want. After dramatically downsizing my digital footprint, I turned to Japanese de-clutter expert Marie Kondo and adopted the mantra that going forward I would only bring into my life possessions, information and thoughts that serve my purpose and bring joy to my life. After all, a joyful mindful state is much more attractive and productive than having an overburdened mind that is full of clutter.
Having difficulty letting go? Try playing your favorite feel-good music while you start decluttering and you will be surprised at how quickly you can let go of whatever it is that you were holding on to that no longer serves your purpose.
I recently completed the Berklee College “Music for Wellness” course on Coursera. I learned how music can impact your mood, health and well- being. When we listen to music that we enjoy, we impact the brain in a positive way by releasing feel-good neurochemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Relaxing music can impact the parasympathetic nervous system and allow us to “rest and digest”, de-stress and recuperate. In the class we created playlists, lists of individual songs to play for various themes such as sleep and relaxation.
A 2018-2019 study, conducted by researchers at the University of California-San Diego believes that on a daily basis people are inundated with the equivalent amount of 34 Gb (gigabytes) of information, a sufficient quantity to overload a laptop within a week https://www.tech21century.com/the-human-brain-is-loaded-daily-with-34-gb-of-information/
Being bombarded by all that information each and every day can trigger stress, physical pain and cognitive decline. I’m currently working on a new playlist, one I can use as an antodote for Information Overload to help relax my brain, stimulate my parasympathic nervous system and release those feel good neurochemicals.
Over the years I developed a communication mantra to keep things “Simple, Essential, and Consumable” in order to be more efficient and effective in communicating and achieving my objectives, and to combat information overload. Simply put, information communication should be:
Simple – straightforward, uncomplicated, easy to understand
Essential – absolutely necessary, extremely important
Consumable – rich and engaging content that is relevant to the recipient and easy to access and comprehend
Challenge your self with these concepts on a regular basis and streamline your own communication style in an effort to reduce information overload and be more efficient and effective in achieving your objectives.
Will WFH increase or decrease Information Overload? (m. bariff 9-14-20)
Work From Home (WFH) was claimed to empower knowledge workers with more flexible work hours and improved productivity from elimination of travel to/from the office. Have you experienced these and more benefits? Consider these factors in your personal assessment:
- Have you established with peer workers a clearly communicated boundary for hours when you will accept voice and written messages? If not, distraction can lower productivity and increase stress.
- If your job includes monitoring some aspect of operations, e.g., sales, manufacturing, delivery, call center activities, what is the frequency of updates? Are you experiencing FOMO or adapted to your WFH environment? Have you discovered your “sweet spot” for balancing “need to know” with information overload?
- Status updates initiated by your request
- Continuous real-time feed
- Pre-set frequency of automated reporting
- Periodic reporting with exception alerts
- Another approach?
- Have you experienced “task scope leakage” from WFH during COVID? Has your organization reduced the size of the workforce increasing demands upon the remaining employees? Each additional task demand typically is accompanied by additional information to be processed. If YES, how do you cope along with maintaining your mental and physical health? Do you have a formal tool for organizing and prioritizing your work demands, e. g., Eisenhower Box (2X2 table) within which you classify demands by Importance and Urgency? Refer to: https://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/
- Does your organization value an acceptable quality of the data available to the workforce, e. g. “single source of truth” from accurate, current and consistent data? If not, you probably waste time reconciling inconsistent data. Have you and your work colleagues communicated your concerns to senior management describing how judgments and decision-making quality and time to complete could improve?
- Is your WFH setting ergonomically appropriate? Does your employer provide financial support to create an appropriate WFH workplace? Some guidance from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/office-ergonomics/art-20046169 This may be another source of WFH stress impacting your activity performance.
- A recent Slack “State of Work” survey (https://slack.com/state-of-work ) and specific recommendations for addressing WFH Information overlaod:
7. An “eye opener” recent study of 2,000 knowledge workers in the U.K. revealed:
Additionally, ‘information overload’ is contributing to stress levels on a daily basis: 18% of respondents are stressed by ‘information overload’ across devices, 8% feel they can’t unplug and are dealing with information 24/7, and another 8% feel overwhelmed with too many data sources and apps to check each day.
Almost half (47%) of UK respondents agree that the number of information sources – email, news feeds, diaries, social media sites, company drive, shared drive etc. – they check each day has increased in the last five years. On average, more than one in ten (13%) UK respondents now use more than ten accounts, tools and apps every day.
The data suggests this ‘information overload’ is having a significant impact on both personal life and work. Just two-fifths (41%) of working UK respondents are able to limit the number of tools, apps and resources they access to complete a work project to three or fewer. In fact, a third (31%) of UK workers typically spend more than a minute searching for a specific file or piece of information for work purposes. Only a fifth (21%) can usually find the file they require in less than ten seconds.
The COVID-19 virus is not disappearing soon. Some jobs may remain classified as WFH even after the virus becomes controllable? How are you coping and adapting to this “new normal”—at least for the near-term future? (https://iorgforum.org )
The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey (2016) proposes that Productivity is a composite function of : attention, energy and time. Managing these carefully will enable working deliberately with intention all day. Working smarter in our Knowledge Economy prioritizes attention and energy over time. He recommends focusing on the most important and urgent tasks (ala Eisenhower 2X2 Matrix)–even to the extent for selecting just 3 top ranking tasks to complete in one day.
Message for decreasing IO: (1) reducing distractions consumes time, but increases attention, (2) sleep, even naps, takes time but increases energy, (3) Focus on task–procrastination wastes time creating fatigue. Self-assessment exercises are included at the end of each chapter. Fast read. I found it valuable and instructive. Marty #EndInfoOverload
Distractions are a huge challenge in today’s “always on” environment, and a key source of “information overload”.
In this post, we are going to learn a bit more about the different types of distractions, what they are, and how you can (hopefully) learn to reduce their impact on your personal productivity.
There two key types of distractions: A) External Distractions and B) Internal Distractions
A) External Distractions
External distractions come from an outside source and impact your ability to focus.
There are three main sources of External Distractions; i) Environmental, ii) Technological and iii) Interpersonal.
i) Environmental Distractions
Environmental distractions are caused by something in the environment around you, including your personal comfort level.
Examples include; noise, temperature, lighting, physical comfort, and hunger/thirst.
To minimize the negative impact of environmental distractions;
Turn off the television and the radio (unless music helps you focus).
Set the temperature and lighting is at a comfortable level
Ensure your desk and chair are ergonomically correct.
Make sure you are well-rested, fed, comfortable, and ready to work.
ii) Technological Distractions
Technological distractions are anything caused by technology.
Examples include; pop-up notification messages, instant messaging, social networks, sounds from computer applications, or the display of competing information on your computer or device.
To reduce the impact of technological distractions:
Turn off all visual and audible notifications.
Close-down any applications except the one you need to use for your Focus task.
If possible, simply turn-off your mobile phone, or at least place it on “mute”.
iii) Interpersonal Distractions
Interpersonal distractions are interruptions caused by other people.
Examples include; people phoning or texting you, people stopping by your workspace, and interruptions by co-workers you share office space with.
To reduce the impact of interpersonal distractions:
Set your messenger apps and Email to “do not disturb” mode or shut them down.
Place an “Engaged in Deep Work” sign on your office door or entry to your workspace.
Wear headphones, even if they are not playing music – many people will simply leave you alone if they think you are listening to music, and they have the additional benefit of “muting” environmental noise as well.
B) Internal Distractions
Internal Distractions are ones caused by your own wandering mind. They are some of the most difficult to control since YOU are the cause of the distraction, and why “focus” can be so very difficult!
Examples include; daydreaming, succumbing to distractions or interruptions, thinking about another activity, jumping to look at something else “for just a second” that then turns into much longer than a second, or just “losing focus”.
To reduce the impact of internal distractions:
Meditation and Mindfulness exercises can help you learn how to reduce the frequency and impact of Internal Distractions.
And some of the suggestions such as reducing other types of distractions and optimizing your environment will help to reduce their frequency and severity.
The above information is an excerpt from a larger post on the importance of “Learning How to Focus“.
Thank you to everyone that attended the Information Overload Day 2019 Webinar on October 15th, “Beyond Email – The Next Generation of Solutions“
It was a great session with many interesting presentations and some good discussions.
If you were unable to attend the webinar, or weren’t able to stay through the entire event, we are happy to announce that we have posted the entire event.
You can view it on our: IORG Youtube Channel
Or, you can view the Webinar with this link: Information Overload Day 2019 Webinar
And we are always looking for anyone interested in providing guest posts or support of our organization. If interested, please feel free to contact us.
Thanks again for your continued support of IORG.
Information Overload Day 2019
October 15th at 11:00 AM EDT
Beyond Email: The Next Generation of Solutions
Click the “Register Now” button to Register for this event!!
For this year’s “Information Overload Day” on October 15th, the Information Overload Research Group is sponsoring an online Webinar featuring speakers that are focusing on the specialized topics of “Beyond Email – The Next Generation of Solutions”.
Topics and Presenters:
- Welcome – Nathan Zeldes, President IORG and Founder of Nathan Zeldes Consulting
- Introduction – Jonathan Spira, Vice President IORG and Director of Accura Media
- Solutions Beyond Email – Marc Wright, founder of simply-communicate, will chair a panel of technology experts that will examine solutions beyond email. Participating in the panel will be Nicole Alvino of SocialChorus; and Martyn Perks, a strategic adviser on enterprise social networks.
- Collaborative Team Tools – Marc Powell, managing director of Emailogic Ltd., will share insight on how we can embed new collaborative tools in our teams that will help us achieve our goals beyond what email permits.
- Using Microsoft OneNote to Reduce IO – Dr. Monica Seeley, founder of Mesmo Consultancy, will discuss the benefits of Microsoft OneNote over conventional email and how it helps reduce information overload.
- Concluding Remarks – Jonathan Spira
The Information Overload Research Group (IORG) is excited to bring a valuable webinar where renowned experts and speakers offer fresh insights on the science, stories, and solutions for managing information overload.
Who is this for: Managers, Researchers, Entrepreneurs, Knowledge Workers, Consultants, Educators, or anyone looking to better manage Information Overload.
When: October 15th, 2019, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m EDT.
Where: Online Webinar (webinar details to be provided after you Register)
Price: Although there is no cost to attend the Webinar, we are asking attendees to please consider choosing a “donation” or “sponsor” ticket type. We are a non-profit organization and only through your support can continue to bring you events like this.
Registration Link: Register for the Information Overload Day 2019 Webinar on Eventbrite