The overwhelming amount of emails in your inbox along with the flood of unread messages, news feeds, tweets and texts on your phone can steal your focus, making you less productive and more stressed and anxious. Information overload can even affect your ability to make decisions and to get sound sleep. Instead of spending a large chunk of your workday sorting through irrelevant data and correspondence, it’s important to become an intelligent consumer of information. The goal is to eliminate, filter out or block any information that is not relevant. Try these tips for managing information overload, enabling you to be more constructive with your time, think more clearly and make better decisions.
Start by taking stock of the interruptions. You may not even be aware of what’s diverting your attention. Is it Facebook notifications? Text pings from a friend? Once you know what’s competing for your focus, you can be strategic in limiting your media overconsumption.
Trim the incoming. Set information limits with others, telling your friends what information you do and don’t want to receive, such as jokes, political news, etc.
Ask people to call or stop by your desk. You may get a lot more clear information that way—just make sure you curb any extra chit-chat.
Focus on problem-solving. It’s tempting to search the internet for endless snippets of information on every subject under the sun. Try to limit your searches to finding the information you need to answer top priority concerns.
Designate a time to check emails, messages, and so forth. Stick to a time limit, say a half-hour. Or break your “checking in” time to two or three shorter sessions during the day. Remember to turn off notifications between those times to avoid continuous interruptions.
Do one task at a time. Whether you are writing a lengthy report, listening to a webinar, or writing an email to a colleague, avoid turning your attention to messaging in the middle of it. Keep in mind that multitasking has been shown to make you less productive, not more. It forces your brain to make decisions about how to respond—for example, should you keep at what you are doing or turn your attention to the interruption. Switching between tasks can impair memory and concentration, and leave you feeling exhausted, disoriented and anxious.
Unplug from screen time—and the news. Even if you’re looking at funny animal videos to give you a lighthearted boost, think of healthier ways to entertain yourself, such as going for a walk, spending time with a friend or loved one, or meditating. Your mind will be refreshed and your mood will be lifted.
Remember, while we all may be literally swimming in a sea of information these days, it’s possible to take control of what’s flowing your way, increasing your focus, concentration and improving your mental health.