Taming The Information Overwhelm Beast
An Overwhelming World
Information overwhelm is one of our most significant challenges in this digital age. We are bombarded from the moment we wake up until the second we fall to sleep.
Despite the vast amounts of data that come your way every day, there are practical methods to filter out, declutter, and end the information overwhelm or at least reduce it to manageable levels.
I’m still learning to tame the beast myself and it’s a daunting task.
I’m confessing right here and now that I need as much help as you do. I get it.
Not do you have all the information you need for your job, there’s also the sheer amount you need to know to navigate daily living.
In addition, there is a constant bombardment of factoids, stories, blog posts, news, statistics and other data coming from every direction. It’s a lot to keep up with!
The Four Hour Work Week
I first saw the idea for an information “diet” in Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Work Week.”. In it, he shows the methods he used to streamline the amount of information coming to him.
It’s an awesome theory; it’s brilliant. He has cut out reading or listening to the news altogether, reads two periodicals a month and reads precisely one hour of fiction a night.
He also reads email ONCE A WEEK. This gives him much more time to do the things he loves.
All through the book, there are methods and actionable steps that can be taken to hone the information coming into the necessary minimum allowing more focus for the things that matter.
I do love the theory, but the idea of cutting down on reading hurts my book lover’s heart.
Most of us cannot live in an information vacuum. However, there are things we can do to tone down our intake. Tim Ferris has proven that in his own life.
Just like being selective with calories, we also need to be selective about the information we consume.
Easy, Actionable Steps
I like Tim’s handling of the news … he stopped consuming it entirely. I know most of us can’t entirely do this, but the fantasy of it is intriguing.
Local, Country and World news media are not only massive in volume, they are also extremely repetitive.
Try this … spend a few days clicking around to different news programs on the TV noticing what stories they have in common, as well how many times on different days certain stories repeat.
I’m talking about broadcast news only not cable news so disregard CNN and Fox … which have a multitude of other problems I’m not even going to go into.
Watch the same stories show up on different outlet for two or three different days. The ones that repeat the most tend to be the most upsetting and disturbing. They are incendiary and often slanted. Designed to trigger our outrage and fear. There is something constantly hit our nerves and destroying our peace.
This is one area that I have managed to almost completely eliminate. The news media is slanted and so much is taken out of context. We’re presented with problems but not their solutions.
If there’s anything important going on in the world, I still hear about it from friends and family without having it shoved in my face every day.
Email is a tough habit to break but there are steps you can take steps to thin down the herd a little, particularly with personal email.
How many websites have you gone to and signed up for their newsletters or broadcasts? How many of those emails do you still read?
Be honest. How many just go to the trash unopened?
Do you have a sense of pleasure or anticipation when you see them in your inbox? If the answer is no, unsubscribe.
I get the irony, I write a blog. Attracting subscribers is part of the business. I love and appreciate all of mine. So adding to the irony, please go to my website ( https://thezenintrovert.com/ ) and subscribe for some peace and entertainment in your inbox.
Turn your spam filter up to high and only whitelist email addresses that give you the information you want or need.
Blacklist undesirable domains that send multiple messages every day.
Bulk delete or report spam emails once a week.
Another thing Tim Ferriss that recommends in The Four Hour Work Week is checking your email twice a day and to not check email first thing in the morning. It’s better to get the most difficult task off your plate before you get distracted by email.
This is a sound recommendation, my morning starts much easier than it does when I check my email first thing and find a fire drill or something upsetting or irritating.
I was conveniently laid off which reduced my email load significantly. Read more here: So You’ve Been Laid Off, Now What?
Magazines are fairly easy to cut down or eliminate.
I have four magazine subscriptions and right now, the to-read pile is over a foot high, might be close to two feet. Why? Because they’re usually on the bottom of my “to consume” list.
Three are art magazines and one is a massage magazine that comes with my therapist insurance.
Take a good hard look at your magazines, do you read them when they come in? If no, don’t renew them. Collecting magazines but not read them is pretty useless, instead, drop them in your doctor’s office, beauty salon, or anywhere else you may tend to sit for a long time. Media donations are usually welcomed in prisons and hospitals.
Well … yeah … Let’s talk about books. I don’t have much that’s useful to contribute to this category because my to-read pile is so big it has its own bookcase.
Cull through your books, as difficult as that may be and put aside books for donation to Goodwill, your Public Library, hospital, or even your local prison system. Take them to a used bookstore for credit.
If you want to make a few extra dollars, set up an eBay store, sell them on Amazon with a Bookseller’s Account, or get an AbeBooks or an Alibris account.
To further reduce your pile of books, sign up for a library card and check out books or get them online and download to your eReader.
I guess I don’t consider these a “bombardment” because there’s free will involved or in my case, no willpower.
There really should be a YouTube anonymous meeting. I’d be the first one through the door. Really. I’m totally addicted to art how-to videos. If used for how-to reference, it’s a beautiful thing.
The Ted talks alone are worth dipping your toes into YouTube. However, it’s a vast and deep rabbit hole to fall into, Alice.
All things in moderation. I watch Ted talks, Abraham Hicks videos, some art how-to videos, you know uplifting things. For some reason that always spirals downhill into “guilty pleasures’” like theories on my favorite TV shows, following the British Royal Family, Guy Tang (a hair colorist who’s known for his huge personality as well as his skill) and other channels that are pure fun.
This is one that I’m striving to cut down on; I’ve successfully limited myself to once a week and I set a timer for an hour.
Internet in General
So, I’m already overwhelmed between a blogging class; a copywriting class; research for my articles; business information; random and many websites that I find interesting; all the knowledge that I’m digging through so I can be a better blogger; and whatever pleasure reading I can eek out of my spare time. Whew!
Overwhelm in its purest form.
Again, pick and choose, be greedy with your time. Go through your hundreds of bookmarks and keep the ones you visit the most and give you the most value.
The internet is really the last frontier. It’s the collective brainchild of millions of people and sometimes the amount of sheer information out there is suffocating.
Use with care and if your brain starts locking up, go wander outside, look at some flowers and take a deep breath.
Social media has connected the world and made it a more interesting place and has maybe also made us less sociable.
It’s easy to communicate with someone who’s half a world away yet we still have problems talking to people face to face.
Social media is also addicting, it turns on the pleasure centers in our brains to post comments that receive likes, to like other’s comments and pictures. It’s delightful and sometimes decadent and tickles our desire to view someone else’s life. We are a reward-driven species and social media plays right into that.
Again, moderation is key here. Do you need all the platforms you’re on? Do you really need to be spending hours a day scrolling through your feeds and liking everything and everyone?
Take one platform at a time and clean out the people that you’re no longer interested in following, the ones that spout negativity all day long, and delete the accounts that no longer have any activity coming from them.
Evaluate your RSS feeds also. Are you constantly being interrupted with messages from the feed? Stop your notifications and unsubscribe from those that you no longer find interesting.
Social Media is a blogger’s best friend as far as finding an audience and driving traffic. I appreciate its power and its ability to form connections and tribes of likeminded souls but it doesn’t have to take hours out of my day to still be effective.
The Tools to Tame the Beast
Taming the overwhelm beast is a matter of picking and choosing.
Spend the first few minutes in the morning charting out what tasks need accomplishing each day. Block an hour in the morning, one at noon, and one at the end of the day for email.
Using a planner is a great tool to tame overwhelm and Trello along with a planner is a great way to organize the steps you want to take to reach your goals each quarter.
Limit hours spent on personal web surfing.
Give yourself a day off of social media on the weekend.
Call To Action
Conscientiously start honing down your media intake. It doesn’t have to be overnight but take some small steps every day.
What’s your favorite way to cut down on the amount of information coming at you? Leave your methods in the comment section below!
Say ‘To Tech with IT’ and go out and tame your Information Monster!