Social media. Podcasts. Television shows. Text messages from friends. Email.
There are a lot of ways to get information these days. There are so many, in fact, that it can feel overwhelming and that your brain needs a break from the abundance of information at its disposal.
If you’re having a hard time focusing on your task at hand because all you can do is sit and think about the latest news story or email from a coworker, then it’s time you learn how to save yourself from information overload. And Fellow is here to help!
- What is information overload?
- How can you recognize information overload?
- Why should we avoid information overload?
- How to prevent information overload
What is information overload?
Information overload was first coined in the book Future Shock, written by Alvin Toffler. The term “information overload” means when you learn so much information at once that the information overload limits you from taking action or knowing what to do next. The general feeling is when you’re overwhelmed by the amount of data, making it too much to process.
The term can refer to when someone is in a situation involving too much information at once, like the first few days at a new job, and the constant inundation of information many experience from social media, websites, and various apps, for example.
How can you recognize information overload?
There are many ways you can recognize information overload in yourself. Some warning signs of information overload include:
- Experiencing poor concentration due to short-term memory overload once you receive a lot of information at once.
- Multitasking that is more frequent and that results in diminished rather than increased productivity.
- Experiencing “hurry sickness,” which is where a person believes they must constantly rush through their daily tasks to save or keep pace with time, causing them to feel overwhelmed.
- Experiencing a chronic state of irritability, near anger, or even rageful feelings.
- Being overly stimulated, resulting in brain fog or forgetfulness.
- Being compelled to always be plugged in so you never miss any new information—this may look like constantly checking your email and voicemail, and remaining in constant touch with the internet and social media.
- Feeling regular stress, including increased sickness, depression, exhaustion, and burnout.
Combat information overload
Combat information overload with a collaborative meeting agenda that enables you to stay on top of important information discussed during meetings and keeps everyone on the same page. Try Fellow today!
Why should we avoid information overload?
Avoiding information overload can lead to several benefits.
For starters, you’ll feel more productive when you’re not trying to handle too many tasks simultaneously. Your work will also be of higher quality because you’re not trying to focus on too many things at once.
Additionally, removing distractions will improve your mental clarity and reduce stress levels. Without all these distractions, your decision-making will improve because you’re not trying to consider several data points and information at once—which can ultimately prevent you from coming to the best possible decision.
How to prevent information overload
Thankfully, preventing information overload is possible. Consider these 10 tips to reduce the volume of information at your disposal at any given time.
- Limit the amount of time spent on decision making
- Use the time-blocking method
- Simplify tasks
- Set limits
- Use a planner
- Use email filters
- Break large tasks into multiple smaller tasks
- Learn how to communicate effectively
- Limit distractions around you
- Prioritize and delegate tasks
1Limit the amount of time spent on decision making
One of the drawbacks of information overload is feeling like you have to be “always on”—ready at any time to come to a productive decision or conclusion. One way to prevent this feeling is to set a clear expectation for yourself that you don’t always have to be available. For this, consider using an email autoresponder during certain parts of the day to tell your team members you will review their email and send an answer at another time during the day.
Additionally, limit the amount of time wasted during meetings by learning how to run effective decision-making meetings and how Fellow can help.
2Use the time-blocking method
Next, consider implementing a time-blocking method for your workday. This time management method can help organize your workday into specific blocks of time. Each of these blocks is dedicated to completing a particular task so you can stay focused on that task exclusively.
This can help you focus, not feel overwhelmed, and be more productive when you cross tasks off your to-do list. Go through the various types of time-blocking methods and choose the one best suited for the responsibilities on your plate.
Another way to stave off information overload is to simplify the tasks you have in front of you. It’s okay to accept that the solutions you’ve come up with are good enough, even if it means you have to accept and address your own perfectionism. This will keep the amount of information coming at you at bay so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Pro tip: Simplify your meetings to limit information overload by bringing your meeting notes and agendas into Google Meet and Google Calendar. With Fellow’s browser extensions, you can access your meeting notes right inside of Google Meet calls and your Google Calendar to supercharge team meetings and 1-on-1 without leaving the tools that you are already using.
In addition to time blocking, it’s also possible to manage your time by setting limits. This can look different depending on your tasks, but consider breaking big tasks into smaller ones, limiting yourself to only attending crucial meetings each day so you’re not overscheduled, and even limiting how quickly you feel like you need to reply or respond to messages.
You can also set limits for when you check your email and how long you’re on social media. Limiting your exposure and being selective to the amount of data and information demanding your attention can save you from information overload and help you stay on task!
5Use a planner
Another way to prevent information overload is to use a planner! Planning your day will increase productivity and efficiency and help you avoid too much information. It’ll be easier for you to stay on task, which will limit how many distractions can derail you from your routine. You’ll be less likely to scroll social media or check your phone if you have a routine to follow.
If you’re unsure how to plan your day or your week, Fellow has you covered with our weekly planner template—and best of all, it’s free!
6Use email filters
Our next tip is to use email filters. Using email filters and folders to sort simple updates into separate files so you can focus on more critical notifications can make all the difference. This way, every time you see that you’ve gotten a reply or a new email, you won’t be tempted to stop what you’re doing or feel the need to send a response immediately.
Having emails and direct messages come in every few minutes is detrimental to your decision-making skills and impairs judgment while also pushing you toward feeling overwhelmed by all the information coming your way. Hiding these notifications can trick your brain into staying on task until you have the time to reply.
7Break large tasks into multiple smaller tasks
A large task can feel incredibly daunting, but breaking it into smaller tasks can make it more doable and easier to accomplish. When this is the case, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or pressured to race against the clock to finish a huge undertaking.
8Learn how to communicate effectively
Communicating effectively with your team members can also reduce how much information is in front of you. This goes for all types of communication, but especially verbal and written communication.
Knowing how to communicate effectively to avoid information overload comes down to asking the right questions and limiting the questions to a need-to-know basis. This keeps the information provided to only what you need to know to complete your job and responsibilities.
The same goes for how you answer questions. Don’t dump information on someone because they’re likely trying to avoid information overload, too. Be succinct, and try to avoid oversharing!
9Limit distractions around you
Social media. Emails. Direct messages. Even your own thoughts.
There’s a lot to be distracted by today. Refreshing your favorite app and email inbox can distract you from getting your work done while also bringing up tons of information that you don’t need.
Of course, limiting these distractions is easier said than done. Doing so is possible if you make a conscious effort. There are certain apps and software you can use that limit social media exposure during work hours, but there are other steps you can take, too.
For instance, if you need something important, consider printing it out and reading it in the office lounge, your living room, or even a coffee shop. Reading it away from your computer means you won’t be distracted by incoming messages and pings.
10Prioritize and delegate tasks
Finally, it’s important to prioritize and delegate tasks to save yourself from information overload. Take a look at your to-do list, prioritize the work you believe will take the longest to complete, and do your best to accomplish that first. The same is true for the “eat the frog” method. Important decisions and tasks should be done first while you have the most energy.
Delegation is essential to master because it will empower your team and build trust with one another while growing personal development as others are given new tasks to accomplish. When delegating to others, consider their skills and strengths, explain why this task is being delegated, and thank your team members for their hard work.
Too much, all at once.
We live in the information age, and information overload will only become more and more common. With large amounts of information available at our fingertips, it’s easy to feel like you need a break from it all. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious, saving yourself from information overload is possible!