Written by: Vince Morales, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
More information is constantly published on the internet, and anyone anywhere has easy access. But with so much quality information and too many choices, information overload is inevitable. The only way you can work effectively, increase your focus levels, and improve productivity is by being careful of the type of content you consume. So, if you have been under too much pressure and are failing to think clearly, take the following steps to overcome information overload, retain your focus, and get more done.
The Interaction Design Foundation (n.d.) asserts that to complete a task or make a decision, a person experiencing information overload is faced with an excess of available information. As a result, the decision-making process becomes impeded, leading to poor or even non-decisions due to the situation. The designers of products (e.g., a website or an app) or services should take particular care to prevent information overload from negatively impacting users’ experience when designing products.
In his 1964 work, The Managing of Organizations, Bertram Gross, a professor of political science and a writer on the management of organizations, coined the term. A significant problem in history has been information overload, particularly during the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution periods. Despite this, there has been a dramatic increase in information available to us since the advent of the Information Age, as well as the access to powerful and low-cost data collection methods that allow us to collect data on an automated basis. Due to this reason, the issue of information overload is more relevant than ever. Some causes of information overload include:
There is a constant flow of enormous amounts of latest information being created.
The ease with which information can be created, duplicated, and shared on the internet.
The exponential growth of information channels, such as radio, television, print media, websites, email, mobile telephony, RSS feeds, etc., could be attributed to the increased channels to receive information.
An abundance of conflicting information, contradictory information, and plain old inaccurate information can be found.
No simple methodology can be used to analyze, compare, and evaluate information sources instantly.
It appears that groups of information do not have a clear structure, and there are no substantial clues as to the relationships between distinct information groups.
One main thing that leads to information overload is overworking and failing to take breaks. So, rest. Always take short breaks when working. Do not focus on getting more done within a brief time or before the day ends. Realize the significance of stepping away from your desk in increasing productivity levels and reaching your goals.
Suppose you work 6 to 8 hours daily, set aside at least an hour for relaxation. For example, if you are currently working on a complex project, schedule 15-minute breaks between tasks. Use the Pomodoro Technique to work more effectively and ensure you produce exceptional work.
The Pomodoro Technique is an effective time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo. It is when you use a timer to break down work into 25-minute or 50-minute intervals separated by short breaks. Doing this helps you avoid interruptions, improve your focus, and produce quality work. So, try it.
Focus on work during working hours and avoid anything related to your job while at home. Avoid thinking about work, discussing, or checking your phone or computer for work emails.
Realize that relaxation is as important as getting work done; the only way to complete tasks is by recharging. So, avoid anything mentally taxing during break time or relaxation time.
Clear your mind. Engage in activities that help you to relax and stay physically fit. Create an exercise routine and stick to it. Set aside at least 30 minutes daily or three times weekly to run, jog, or do stretch exercises. Pick a hobby or favorite sport, learn, and be available for it. This is a fantastic way to improve your physical and mental well-being and maximize productivity.
Prioritize your work and the information you consume. Know the type of information crucial to the task at hand to ensure you only concentrate on sources that align with your goals. Avoid reading anything you get your hands on or clicking on every link that seems appealing to you.
Set goals each time you work on a new task or receive a new project. Know what you want to achieve from it and the research needed for its completion. Answer key questions: “What is my main goal?” “What are the expected results?” “What sort of information do I need to complete this task?” “Where can I find the content?” And “What reliable sources can I use?”
Know the type of information needed to carry out tasks and start researching. Identify reputable sources and use them to find what you are looking for. Read enough to understand and avoid anything that does not help you achieve your goal.
If what you want to read has nothing to do with what you want to achieve, at that moment, ignore it. Doing this saves you time, helps you quickly find relevant information, and keeps you producing at an elite level.
Focus on priorities and getting them done when you are most productive. For example, if you are a morning person, work on complex tasks during the early hours of the morning. If you concentrate best in the evening, tackle complex tasks during those hours.
List your top priorities for the day on index cards to constantly remind yourself of what needs to be done. Put them somewhere you can easily see and access them—for example, your desk or the office wall, just in front of you.
Procrastination forces you to work under pressure and leads to more information consumption. If you put off what needs to be done today for another day, you will race to meet deadlines and have too much workload when you finally do the work. So, ensure you complete all essential tasks on your schedule and do not set aside what needs to be accomplished today for ‘when the time is right.’
Create a working routine and stick to it. For example, if you work from 7 am to 4 pm, make sure by 7 am you are sitting at your desk. Work for a certain number of hours and take a break. Write down the task you will focus on, the time you will start working on it, and the number of hours you will spend on it. Doing this keeps you focused and ensures you only concentrate on information that helps you complete that task. You will not entertain anything that has nothing to do with what you are working on and manage your time well.
Schedule breaks and include them on your daily to-do lists to avoid overworking.
If you are a master procrastinator and always find completing tasks or meeting deadlines challenging, identify your triggers and eliminate them. What causes you to procrastinate? Is it a more ‘appealing offer’? Do you feel you have enough time to finish the job on time even when you do not? Or do you spend too much time researching and fail to do the actual work? Identify the main reason you procrastinate and find effective ways to eliminate it.
For example, work more strategically if you consistently fail to complete work because you spend too much searching for information and reading one article after another. Write down your goals, and do not use Google search before specifying what you want to accomplish.
State the number of articles you will read and the books you browse to avoid consuming more information than necessary. Have at least six reliable websites or blogs that you will use to search for a specific topic and use them to access the information you need. Read one or two articles from each blog and ignore the rest.
One article per website is often enough. However, in some cases, you may need to read three or more articles per blog, depending on what you are working on.
The goal is to find enough quality data to help you do your job and finish it on time.
Vince Morales, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Vince Morales is a mindset, self-image, and resilience coach. In addition, he is skilled in leadership consultation and development. From April 2016 to June 2017, Vince was a homeless veteran in San Diego, CA. While homeless he made a powerful decision to change his thinking and mindset launching into life coaching. He developed a niche for resilience and mindset coaching. The growth of his business ultimately led to the end of his homelessness. Vince is the Founder of Validus Coaching & Consulting, formerly Zoe Transformation. His story has been featured in online articles and online news outlets all over the U.S. He is a certified John Maxwell Team Coach, Trainer, & Speaker as well as a motivational speaker. In 2021, Vince earned his Master's degree in Psychology of Leadership from Penn State University and is currently a doctoral student pursuing a Ph.D. in Performance Psychology. He is a 2020 inductee into The National Society of Leadership and Success.