How do you get tasks done when there’s so much information available? Do you feel confused about where to start? Do you have a case of information overload?
Here are some of the symptoms of information overload:
- Confusion, a lack of direction and inability to organise your ideas
- Feeling Tired, lack of energy and unable to start anything useful
- No Focus, lack of clarity and unable to pay attention to tasks
- Information Addicted, passively searching for information without taking action
- Zero Productivity, when you look back over your day you realise you haven’t done what you set out to do
The path to success seems simple enough, it’s about taking the right sequence of actions over a given period of time.
So what’s the answer to taking action when you’re overwhelmed with choice and confused by information from multiple sources?
Clearly, one of the biggest problems we face in today’s information age is focus. How do we how do we overcome our confusion and clarity issues and actually get the things done that we want to?
Overcoming Information Overload is one of the keys to productivity in the 21st Century.
I’ve put together 7 ways to overcome information overload and actually get things done:
1. The most important function, the ‘OFF’ button
I was sitting in London in a room full of people with the Chairman of one of the most powerful companies in the world. Eric Schmidt from Google was talking about ‘The Case for Tech Optimism’.
“Phones have one important function on them. The OFF button.” Eric said as he looked at his gleaming new phone.
Interesting to know that one of the most important people in the digital and mobile industry is actually recommending that we learn to switch our phones off.
So how often do you switch your phone off? I believe everyone should switch their phone off for some time every day. If it isn’t for productivity at least it’s for peace of mind.
A study showed that the average person checks their device 85 times per day. That’s an incredible amount of distraction.
As you’ve probably experienced, leaving your phone switched on makes it so easy to check, and to fall into the trap of distracted again. It can then take 20 mins to get back to what you were doing previously.
You’ll reach for it a few times expecting to be able to check your updates and notifications, but then realise it’s off.
You’ll realise how much more clarity and peace of mind you have when it’s off.
You’ll notice that you feel calmer and more relaxed after some time.
2. Don’t Check Your Email Before 11am
Isn’t it interesting to know that email is one of the most powerful marketing tools today, but also probably the most distracting too?
If you’re working on your self-discipline, perhaps you’re writing a book or starting a business or a new project, try creating a habit of not checking your email before 11 am.
Try switching off all possibilities of checking your email, especially in the morning as you try to get your most important tasks done for the day.
I try to switch my phone off until 11 am, and this works perfectly because I usually check my email on my phone too.
We tend to check email so often that it becomes a powerful habit which doesn’t help us at all, in fact, it distracts you from everything else that you need to get done.
3. Avoid multitasking for maximum efficiency
They say multi-tasking is a myth. Take a look at this picture below (you may have seen this one before), but have a go again:
Did you see the candlestick? And also did you notice the 2 faces looking at each other?
Now try seeing both illusions at the same time. Are you able to do it?
Sure you can switch between the two, but you simply can’t see both illusions at the same time. This demonstrates that your brain simply can’t focus on two things at once.
The key is to work on one task until completion, then start a new one. Or have a time limit for a certain task. For instance, you could ring-fence 25 mins per day, twice a day for writing, or a creative activity.
4. Conserve Your Decision Making Energy
Some of the world’s most productive people limit the small decisions they need to take every day so they conserve more energy for the important things.
The fact is decisions use energy. Limiting your decisions, especially the small ones so you don’t have to keep thinking about them and choosing.
For example, if you start your day with any number of choices about what to do, your energy may get dissipated and you’ll end up reacting to whatever happens during the day.
It’s much better to consciously choose what tasks you’ll work on until you complete them.
This is why delegating or outsourcing your least important tasks can be so liberating, and it’s one of the most powerful ways to get focused on what matters.
5. Do your most important task first thing in the morning
There’s some research that has been done that shows Willpower gets used up throughout the day and willpower is exhaustible.
Make a list of all the tasks you have going on at the moment. Now prioritize your list of tasks with your most important tasks first.
It seems that we’re given a certain amount of energy daily to do the things we need to do. Later in the day, we need to rest and recharge our batteries.
One of the most practical yet most powerful productivity tips is simply this 3 step approach:
- Prioritize your tasks, choose the most important task.
- First thing in the morning always do your most important task first until complete.
- Repeat daily.
6. Clarity through Stillness
This is probably the most powerful one for overcoming information overload and often overlooked.
The antidote to information overload is clarity. But clarity doesn’t usually happen by itself, we normally need to bring it about in some way. Clarity is something that is cultivated and something you can consciously create.
Choose a daily practice that you feel drawn to. This could meditation or yoga, or any other practice which is known to still the mind and bring peace.
Even the simple practice of sitting still in silence, allowing your mind to reflect is powerful in itself too.
Stillness is the only way to clear your mind and keep you focused and prepared for what you need to do during the day, and one of the most powerful ways to ensure you’re functioning at your optimal level.
7. Try A Notification Detox
A trend that has crept in over the past few years is the ability of apps, websites and all kinds of software to send you ‘notifications’.
Basically, notifications are a request for your attention. The more attention you give them, the more chance that your clarity of mind will be lost.
If you want greater clarity in your life, reduce or switch off all notifications completely. This is quite easy to do and will save you lots of time.
This goes for your email inbox too. Stop all your email notifications. If you’re using Gmail, there’s even an add-on called “inbox pause” that will put your inbox on a break for a while.
Information overload is a real problem and can have a major effect on your productivity. It can leave you feeling tired, confused and disturb your peace of mind.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to get back on track and restore clarity, but it needs effort on your part.
These include switching off your devices, don’t check email so often, conserve your decision-making energy, do your most important tasks in the morning, gain clarity through stillness and turn off all those constant notifications.