Articles, videos, TV, radio, movies, books, Twitter, Facebook, websites, online forums, e-mail, advice from other people—sometimes the amount of information coming at you seems overwhelming. Yet other times it’s fine, and you feel like you can handle it. It’s not just the sheer amount of information that creates a feeling of overload. Rather, it’s how you approach processing information.
Focus is the cornerstone of managing information overload, and there are three important ways of focusing. First, take time to define your vision and to develop goals that will help you achieve it. Then you can more easily determine which information is important and which you can, and should, ignore.
Second, focus your attention. Multitasking can be useful if you’re combining several activities that don’t require much concentration, such as listening to an audiobook while exercising. But if you’re doing information-intensive work, such as writing a report or reading technical or complex material, multitasking will just break your concentration. That makes it harder to grasp new concepts and reduces your productivity. If you’re having trouble concentrating, try setting a timer for 20 minutes. Work on just one information-intensive project during that time. After 20 minutes, take a five-minute break, and repeat the sequence once or twice if you have time. After an hour or so, take a longer break.
Visual thinking is a third way of focusing. Doodling can help you focus by reducing daydreaming while you listen. Sketching your ideas, writing ideas on cards and sorting them, and mind mapping all tap into the power of visual thinking. Highlighting important material with colored markers or pencils is a tried-and-true way of marking important information. Be sparing in marking text, though, so that the highlighted information clearly stands out.
For more techniques on beating information overload, claim your free e-course, Beat Information Overload the 5F Way, by entering your first name and primary e-mail address in the sign-up form to the right.