If you feel like you’re drowning in information, it’s not just your imagination. According to a recent Forbes article, we’ve created more information in the last 10 years than in all the rest of human history. Or, to put it another way, there’s 300 exabytes of information today compared to 30 exabytes 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, that deluge is more than an annoyance. Studies show that being bombarded with too many facts and choices can increase stress and impair your judgment.
Take back control of your time. Learn how to make this growing body of information work for you.
Handling Information Selectively
Lighten your load. Filter out messages that have little use or significance for you.
1. Cancel your subscriptions. How full is your inbox? Ask to be removed from mailing lists for newsletters you have no time to read.
2. Minimize interruptions. Brief interruptions may be more troublesome than you realize. A study by Microsoft found that it takes about 24 minutes for you to restore your attention to your previous task. Try designating some hours of the day as your do-not-disturb time. Check your email and texts less frequently.
3. Be prepared. Polish off brief tasks during those interruptions you can’t avoid, such as online video ads. File your nails or read a magazine until the commercial ends.
4. Recognize recency bias. Our brains are programmed to focus on the latest news regardless of its merits. Wait a few weeks to see if you really want to watch a new movie.
5. Set limits. The internet makes it easy to go on searching forever about any topic. Determine your priorities and the sources you want to rely on.
Handling Information Skillfully
Now that you’ve cleared away the clutter, you can start to organize the knowledge that’s meaningful to you. Simple habits can help you accomplish more in less time.
1. Write it down. Your brain can only keep track of a few items at a time. Free up mental energy by making lists of things you’ll deal with later. That way you can concentrate on reading to your children instead of thinking about what’s going on at the office.
2. Finish what you start. As much as possible, complete a task in one sitting so it’s off your mind. If necessary, break it down into smaller steps.
3. Work in batches. Bunch similar activities together. Pick a time to stay focused on managing your finances or working on your hobby.
4. Stop multitasking. There’s overwhelming evidence that multitasking is a myth. Your brain winds up switching rapidly between tasks. That scattered approach wastes energy, increases tension, and lowers the quality of your performance.
5. Take a break. Scheduling frequent short breaks is more efficient than pushing yourself beyond your capacity. Stand up and stretch every hour. Go for a walk or chat with a friend every few hours.
6. Adjust your expectations. Decide how much time and effort will suffice for any undertaking. You probably want to find out all you can before purchasing a house while 10 minutes may be the most you want to spend on researching deodorants.
7. Daydream more. Successful companies give their employees room for experimentation and innovation. Disconnect for a while each day to observe your thoughts and indulge your creativity.
8. Trust your intuition. Your subconscious is extremely powerful. In addition to gathering facts and analyzing data, listen to your inner voice and emotions to discover your purpose and passions.
Information is valuable when you know how to filter out noise and manage your resources. Protect your creativity and productivity by staying focused on what you need to know to reach your goals.