How To Beat Information Overload

How To Beat Information Overload

There is just too much information out there – almost anyone can duplicate existing information, publish new information and access vast quantities of information from their desktops from the Internet. Email software means that there is a continual flow of messages flooding the Inbox accompanied by a constant stream of text messages and tweets.

We are drowning in a sea of information and many of us are just overwhelmed by the volume and speed of this process, making managing it that much harder. Having access to insufficient information means we are making guesses and assumptions about large, complex decisions and issues but having too much information to deal with means we are stressed and confused as to the best way forward.

Making sense and controlling the flow, volume and speed of information coming into us needs real skill and self-discipline, which can be achieved by sticking tom the following principles:

  • Recognise your own weaknesses: knowing that you take on too much information, and possibly the wrong types of information, is an important starting point. What do you really need to know about a subject, think about the many different ways or channels information comes to you and decide, carefully and critically, which ones are important and which ones are not! Look for connections between different pieces if information and use this to make good use of what you receive. Set up good quality files that t=retain good quality information.
  • Set out your priorities: identify the information that you really need and throw out anything that is just interesting or possibly useful in the future. Having lots of “nice to have” information just slows you down and this type of information is probably always relatively easy to find/research anyway. Your information system should only contain content that feeds into specific objectives or tasks that work to making progress on these subjects.
  • Be systematic, set up a system and stick to it: Discard (throw away) or delete it. Deal with (take immediate action). Decide future action (set a date and file away BUT with a flag or reminder to do something with it at a defined future date). Direct it (send it to someone else with the right level of authority and skill to deal with). Deposit it (for future reading or reference BUT only if it will be read or looked at again – there is a big temptation to have huge files that never get looked at!).
  • Have self discipline over your time management: multi-tasking is ineffective, wastes time and can be an addictive process. Set aside time in your Diary when you will not be disturbed and where you can check through information received and what you have stored away for potential future use. You need time to read and understand information to identify its implications and relevance to your objectives.
  • Be ruthless with paperwork: ask for reports by exception, insist on one page summaries, sift and bin what you receive, delegate carefully.
  • Be ruthless with electronic data: avoid electronic newsletters, discussion groups and limit your social media contacts to avoid overload. Remove all out of date emails.
  • Critically evaluate information sources: chose carefully how you conduct your research so that you are not flooded with irrelevant material.
  • Filter and scan information: read the Summary sections of long documents – do you really have the time to read 50 pages of detail when half a page puts it all into context for you? Learn to skim and scan documents for the really important parts of the material to get to grips with its content.

Continue to fine tune and sharpen the way in which you handle the challenge of information overload.

Good Luck!

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