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How To Get Yourself Out From Huge Information Overload

Freelancers, to be successful, should always be updated about what is happening in the world. This leads to hours of reading news and blogs with the occasional checking of e-mail and social networking websites.

Often, many freelancers tend to work for longer hours, habitually this may lead to mental fatigue. Mental fatigue means living your days at work like a zombie. You do not function, thinking becomes extremely hard, all you want to do is lie down and rest all day. Aside from the inside effects, physical performance is also affected greatly.

Remember the saying “what the mind conceives, the body achieves” ? As always let us first find out what causes information overload.

Causes of Information Overload

Target

Image by: Carlos Alberto Brandao

In our trade as freelancers, not only writers should be updated about the current trends but developers and designers as well. We either tend to do too much or know too much. While doing too much leads to exhaustion, trying to know too much will eventually lead to confusion. Think of your brain as your computer, the more information you save in it the more your computer’s processing speed slows. Here’s the catch, although our brain’s power is beyond that of a computer it is still prone to confusion.

Then there are people who are obsessed with productivity, people who divide their 24 hours into 3 parts: 18 hours for work, 4 hours for sleep, and 2 hours trying to fall asleep.

So far we have:

  • Reading too much before working
  • Extended hours of work
  • Obsessed with productivity

Next stop is procrastination. What? Procrastination leads to information overload?! Yes, somehow. The people I know who are adept at procrastinating can attest to this. Great information is at the tip of your fingers; there is Twitter, Facebook, and blog feeds where temptation always lurk. I am guilty of this, that whenever I see updates of my favorite blogs I stop working and start reading, thinking that by doing so I’m expanding my knowledge that I may use in the future. All of a sudden the rooster starts crowing and I’ve finished nothing!

The idea of multitasking divides people. There are those who believe that multitasking is one of the greatest skills everybody should have, others think would rather remained focus one task at a time. I guess we can all agree that multitasking somehow limits efficiency. Trying to juggle 5 tasks does not actually mean paying attention to them at the same time, your attention switches rapidly from one context to another which may lead to information overload.

Recap:

  • Multitasking –  it’s like short-circuiting the brain (for beginners, at least)
  • Procrastination – the idea of break time, used for reading
  • Availability of great articles like this *laughs*
  • Reading too much before working
  • Extended hours of work
  • Obsessed with productivity

Implications of Information Overload

Stressed

Image by: Carl Dwyer

One of the most dangerous effect of information overload is difficulty in making a decision. Can’t decide what to do first, can’t decide what to write, can’t decide because there are a lot of information inside your head that are trying to get out. And they need your attention to stay calm, but paying attention to all of the buzzing leads to poor focus. Not good, not good.

Job descriptions nowadays mostly requires applicants to be fine with multitasking but our short-term memory cannot juggle 5 or more things at the same time. As mentioned, multitasking only shifts people’s attention from one task to another. It is a fact that the brain can’t focus entirely at the task at hand because of the rapid shifting. Clearly, our work requires focus and skillful decision making.

Slower thought process

Taking Control of Information Overload

Take_control

Image by: Julia Freeman-Woolpert

The human mind is a great thing, it can simulate things that are to happen and things that will never happen. It thrives in the information you give, carefully saving them there in the vast expanse of the universe inside your head. Think of it this way, suppose your desk is filled with notes and trinkets, tons of papers that you believe would help you do your job and other things like books and your collection of Starbucks tumbler. Put simply, you start to forget the color of your desk because of the clutter. Will you spend minutes looking for the piece of paper which contain the information you really need if you’ve properly sorted out the things you don’t? Now your brain must be too confused because of the poor explanation I just made so let’s get straight to the point of this article: Getting Out of Information Overload.

1. Moderation in Everything You Do

Time_moderate

Image by: cema

Too much of everything will kill you. Set your alarm clock and when it rings, stop working. It is good to know lots of stuffs but not those which might harm your work (irrelevant stuffs). Too much work, too much procrastination, too much reading, that’s just too much! *laughs*

Have you ever had one of those nights when you are already on your bed waiting to fall asleep but can’t? Something inside your head whispers of things that you should be doing instead of lying in bed, of things that you’ve just read, nightmare! So I say, do things in moderation.

2. Set Aside Time for Silence

Meditate

Image by: Gabrliela Fabbri

Set aside time for silence and for other things that you wish to do. Break time every 25 minutes of work (see Pomodoro Technique) and do the things that will help you relax, no information hoarding and get far from your computer!

Meditation is another way of getting things inside your mind in order. Just woke up? Don’t brush your teeth just yet, lie there and focus your gaze at your ceiling and just relax for several minutes until you feel like standing (don’t fall asleep though). I find this technique very effective, makes me feel like I’m treating myself just by doing that.

3. Clear Priorities

Priority

Image by: Nick Cowie

By knowing your priorities at the time being, you are automatically (hopefully) safe from going astray. Work priority does not include using Facebook and Youtube for hours (unless you’re in the marketing business).

4. Know What You Need to Know and Don’t Go Astray (however tempting)

Fork_road

Image by: Thomas Pate

If you must read blogs or check things for your work (e-mail, inspirational things) be sure not to go astray. I find it difficult to stop reading things that catches my attention, I feel like I’m obliged to. But I’m doing everything I can to not go astray from the important things. Hard? Yes, you need to monitor yourself and say no to the things that you like.

Your Turn: How do you handle information overload?

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