Eighty percent of learning is visual. As information increases, so does the demand on our visual system. Vision problems make it harder and slower to process information and so contribute to information overload.

You can take some simple steps to make the most of your vision:

  • Use good lighting. As we get older, the lenses in our eyes become less transparent, and pupils tend to be smaller. So we need more light as we age.
  • The human visual system is designed to be most relaxed when looking at a distance. We’re designed to be hunter/gathers who gaze into the distance, not office workers who stare at a computer screen for hours and hours. It takes effort to focus up close. Follow the 20/20/20 rule—every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. That will give your eyes a break from focusing. Blink a few times as well. We tend to blink less often when looking at a computer screen, which can lead to dry eyes.
  • Get an eye exam once a year to be sure your prescription is correct and to catch any signs of disease early. Some eye diseases, such as chronic glaucoma, don’t manifest symptoms until far advanced, when vision loss has already occurred. Systemic problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure can also affect your eyes.
  • Tell your eye doctor about your normal working distance for near work. The standard distance is 16 inches (40 cm), but your distance may be different if you are short or tall, spend more time reading from a computer screen than reading print materials, or have a job that requires clear near vision at a specific distance. Your near prescription can be adjusted to your typical working distance.
  • Losing your place frequently while reading or words running together may indicate that your eyes don’t work together as well as they could. Eye exercises (vision therapy) may help. If your eye doctor doesn’t do vision therapy, ask for a referral to a behavioral optometrist. You can also find out more about vision therapy and locate an optometrist through the Optometric Extension Program Foundation and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

Making the most of your vision will help you beat information overload by processing visual information more quickly, easily, and comfortably.

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Information is like the ocean. To avoid drowning in information, we need to learn when to surf the waves, when to swim, and when to dive deep.

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I took my own advice today and went for a morning walk in a local park to clear my mind. Lombard, Illinois is known as the Lilac Village, and Lilacia Park is its lilac showplace. Both lilacs and tulips are starting to bloom, and the daffodils are at their peak. It was a relaxing and spirit-satisfying start to a day filled with challenging meetings and projects.

Now I’m taking another short break before an evening meeting with a lengthy agenda. Clearing my mind will help me focus on the agenda and discussion and leave other projects until tomorrow.

Have you taken a break today to clear your mind? If not, take a few minutes to relax and refocus.

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Sound mind/sound body—you’ve heard it before, but it’s even truer today as we cope with more and more information. Although the human brain is only 2% of average body weight, it consumes about 20% of available energy and 20% of oxygen. A brain stressed by poor nutrition, lack of oxygen, or insufficient sleep can’t process information efficiently or effectively. You’ll feel foggy, stressed, and unproductive. Cultivate healthy habits for better concentration, mental clarity, and overall well-being.

Core healthy habits include

  • Good nutrition, with emphasis on whole foods. Minimize or eliminate sugars, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, and processed foods.
  • Exercise. A balanced exercise plan includes aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular fitness, weight-bearing exercises to increase strength and build lean muscle, and stretching exercises to promote flexibility.
  • Sufficient sleep. Many time management program suggest getting up an hour earlier. This can be counterproductive if you’re already getting too little sleep. Look for other ways to save time than by shortchanging your need for sleep.

Need to make some changes? There’s plenty of advice and programs available in books, in videos, on TV, and on the Internet. No single program will be right for everyone, so you’ll need to experiment to find what works best for you. Some tips to get started:

  • Make one small change at a time. If you find yourself resisting a change, try an even smaller step. For example, if you haven’t exercised in a long time, try beginning by walking for five minutes, not running for thirty minutes (and check with your physician before starting). Or start upgrading your diet by substituting one healthy snack for your usual candy bar or doughnut.
  • Choosing among programs can push you into information overload if you let it. Review a few programs, and try the one that appeals to you the most. Then stick with it long enough to tell whether it’s working for you. Trying to mix-and-match programs can be confusing. But don’t hesitate to switch programs once it’s clear that one doesn’t work for you.
  • Don’t let preconceived ideas stop you from trying something new. Not a morning person? Try exercising first thing in the morning anyway. That was the key that helped me create a regular exercise habit after years of starting and then quitting. Now I look forward to lifting weights after a day at the computer.

Take these steps toward a sound body and a sound mind, and you’ll feel less stressed by information overload.

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When you feel overwhelmed with too much information, take some time to clear your mind. Even a short break can relieve stress and give you a fresh perspective.

If you can, step away from the information and distractions that surround you, be they computer programs, phones, TV, books, or papers. Go for a short walk, preferably outdoors, but indoors if necessary. (But don’t make a vending machine or kitchen your destination, unless you’re truly hungry. Sugary snacks and caffeine will only give you a temporary lift and end up leaving you more stressed.)

If you can’t get away at all, simply turn aside from your work and do some mindful breathing. Close your eyes (if you can do so safely), sit with both feet on the floor, and put your hands on your lap. Your hands should be open and not touching each other. Inhale slowly through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth when you need to. Notice the weight and posture of your body in the chair, and let other thoughts go. Repeat for at least five long, slow breaths. Notice how much calmer you feel.

When you can get away for twenty minutes or more, here are some other ideas to try:

  • Take a longer walk outdoors. Watch for changes in the environment. What flowers are blooming? Are the trees beginning to change color in the fall? Is a new store opening in the neighborhood? Or look for the negative spaces between objects, such as the shape of the sky seen between tree branches.
  • Spend time on a craft or hobby. Choose a project that keeps your hands busy, but that doesn’t require much concentration. Rhythmic activities such as knitting or pottery can be particularly effective for relaxation, but it’s most important to choose something you enjoy.
  • Listen to music. Don’t multitask; just listen and follow the melody and/or rhythm. You may find instrumental music the most relaxing when you’re feeling overwhelmed, but experiment to find what works best for you.
  • Have a massage, or take a hot bath.

When you return to your work, you’ll feel more relaxed and better able to focus your attention. If you need to do information-intensive work for several hours at a time, plan a five minute break about every forty minutes. When you have long-term projects that require ongoing concentration, schedule longer breaks, at least one day/week if possible. Taking time to clear your mind will help you be more productive and beat information overload.

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You can learn and work most effectively by balancing approaches to information. Seek and gather, organize and analyze, reflect and synthesize—all three approaches are needed at various times.

Information seeking is important when you are exploring a new topic and when you need answers to specific questions. When exploring a new subject, an unstructured approach is appropriate, as it maximizes opportunities for serendipity. Cultivate “beginner’s mind” so that you are open to new ideas. Unstructured approaches include:

  • Web browsing; following links you find through general search engines and on blogs, Wikipedia, Twitter, social bookmarking sites, etc.
  • Asking people you know about the topic
  • Looking through books and periodicals at libraries and bookstores
  • Subscribing to free reports and email newsletters
  • Watching videos

When you’re looking for answers to specific questions, however, structured information gathering is more efficient. Structured approaches include:

  • Interviewing an expert or paying for expert advice
  • Using back-of-the-book indexes
  • Searching a subject-specific database and/or search engines

As you gather more and more information, it’s easy to slip into information overload. Feelings of overwhelm are a signal that it’s time to shift to organizing and analyzing the information you’ve found. In this phase, useless information is eliminated, and information gathering is focused on filling gaps in information. Close down your web browser, e-mail program, and other information-gathering tools while you work so that you aren’t distracted. Review the information you’ve gathered so far. Is there information you don’t need, at least right now? If so, discard it or save it for future use. Are you missing some key pieces of information? Then search for that information, but don’t be distracted by other information you come across. Useful activities for the organizing/analyzing phase include:

  • Developing a mind map of your topic
  • Talking about the information with a friend, colleague, or adviser
  • Taking a workshop or a course
  • Summarizing the main points
  • Creating a chart, spreadsheet, or database

After organizing and analyzing the information, you’ll have a basic understanding of it and how pieces fit together. Now it’s time to reflect on it and synthesize a new understanding or “big picture” by adding your own perspective. Reflect on the information you’ve analyzed, and add your own twist by creating something new or sharing your knowledge. Examples include

  • Writing an article or paper
  • Explaining the topic to someone just beginning to explore it
  • Making something using what you’ve learned

After achieving a degree of mastery by moving through this information cycle, you can begin again. Research the same or related topic in greater depth to develop your expertise, or explore a new subject. You may be in different stages of this cycle with different topics at the same time, but limit the number of topics to just a few at any one time. Lack of focus leads to overwhelm and inaction. Take a focused, balanced approach to beat information overload.

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I’m working on a presentation about Twitter, and I’d like your opinion. There are so many Twitter tools available—what’s your favorite? Voting closes at midnight on March 22, 2010.



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The following is a guest post by Christopher Knight from Ezine Articles. Although this post is written for article marketers, it’s good advice for anyone putting content from Word documents into any web page.

Microsoft Word Smart Quotes and Article Marketers Don’t Mix

By Christopher Knight

By default, Microsoft Word automatically changes straight quotation marks ( ‘ or ” ) to curly (smart or typographer’s) quotes as you type. This is fine if you are only authoring your works for applications not relating to article marketing. When smart quotes are converted to HTML, the quotes are converted to nonstandard characters which end up littering your document with question mark symbols and/or other garbage code.

When in doubt, don’t allow your Ezine Articles to contain smart quotes:

Most articles that are put into article marketing distribution eventually end up being sent to an e-mail newsletter audience. E-mail newsletter servers have near zero-tolerance for MS Word smart quotes; they will not recognize them as valid ASCII characters (because they are not valid). They are a figment of the Microsoft ASCII imagination. In most cases, they will show up as garbage code, thus making you, and your article, look like a real novice lacking proper formatting skills.

At risk are: quotes, apostrophes, double dashes, and 3 periods in a row.

This is what smart quotes look like when properly displayed:

smart quotes arent very smart

This is what standard quotes look like when properly displayed:

“smart quotes” aren’t very smart…

This is what smart quotes look like when not properly displayed:

âsmart quotesâ arenât very smartâ¦

Do you see the downside potential of leaving smart quotes in your articles that you put into distribution? Standard quotes use the lowest common denominator in the ASCII character standards world, and this ensures that your articles will look great in any HTML or text format.

How to disable Microsoft Words smart quotes
  1. On the Tools menu, click AutoCorrect Options, then click the AutoFormat As You Type tab.
  2. Under Replace as you type, select or clear the “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” check box.

Alternatively, you can copy your entire MS Word document over to a non-Microsoft text editor (EditPlus, UltraEdit, TextPad, etc.) and do a simple search and replace. Search and replace the smart quotes into standard quotes, apostrophes, dashes, and dots if applicable.

Caution for authors who do HTML code for their articles in MS Word

Unless you have smart quotes disabled, it should be noted that smart quotes are not valid HTML code. Therefore, don’t even consider using MS Word to do HTML code unless you have the smart quotes feature disabled.

Article marketing smart quotes conclusion

Smart quotes are best left for e-books, physical books in print, PDF documents and any non-HTML related document. If you want to increase the portability of your EzineArticles, do the smart thing and turn off Microsoft Words smart quotes or do a search/replace before you upload your next article to the web.

About the author

Christopher M. Knight invites you to submit your best quality original articles for massive exposure to the high-traffic http://EzineArticles.com/ expert author community. When you submit your articles to EzineArticles.com, your articles will be picked up by ezine publishers who will reprint your articles with your content and links intact giving you traffic surges to help you increase your sales. To submit your article, setup a membership account today: http://EzineArticles.com/submit/.

(c) Copyright – Christopher M. Knight. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Christopher_Knight

http://EzineArticles.com/?Microsoft-Word-Smart-Quotes-and-Article-Marketers-Dont-Mix&id=15624

Reprinted with permission.

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Online or on-line? Ten or 10? AM, a.m., or am? January 26, Jan. 26, or 1/26? Chicago, Illinois or Chicago, IL? U.N. or United Nations? Use a serial comma, or not? (That’s the last comma before and in a series of three or more. For example: Dick, Jane, and Harry went to the movies.)

Small decisions like these can slow you down when you write or edit what you’ve written. In longer pieces, you may lose track of decisions that you’ve made previously.

A style sheet can help you write and edit faster and more consistently. As you make your decisions, record them on a piece of paper or in a word processing file.  Some decisions can be listed under categories such as punctuation, numbers, etc. Words can be simply be listed alphabetically. Include words that you have difficulty spelling. It’s faster to check the style sheet for troublesome words than to look them up repeatedly or to have your spell checker check them over and over.

By using the same style sheet for everything you write, you’ll soon become familiar with your personal style and will only need to refer to your style sheet from time to time. Book manuscripts and other long documents may need their own style sheets to include specialized terms specific to their subjects.

However, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You can choose from many published style guides for assistance. Your choice will depend in part on your subject and type of writing. Frequently used style guides include The Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press 2009 Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, AMA Manual of Style, and Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Organizations and publishers often have a house style based on one of these, so take that into consideration if you are working for an organization or with a publisher. Choose a style guide and then supplement it with your personal style sheet.

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In an earlier post, I talked about focusing as a key step in beating information overload. If you don’t focus on what’s important to your vision and goals, you can easily get sidetracked by less important, even trivial, bits of information. That’s what happened to me last Saturday. During a get-together with friends, the discussion turned to purses. Two friends remarked that they liked Vera Bradley handbags because of their many pockets. I like pockets and compartments in my own purses as well, so this relatively minor bit of information seized my attention, and I found myself window-shopping for Vera Bradley purses at two malls that afternoon. Afterward, I regretted not having accomplished my planned priorities for the day.

Had I intended to buy a new handbag, the information about Vera Bradley purses would have been important and immediately useful. In this case, however, my lack of focus ended up wasting time.

If you could use help defining your vision and focusing on your goals, Cathy Demer’s free report on magnetic goals is a good place to start. She also offers a home study course with more in-depth information.

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