We’ve come into an age where we can have anything we want pretty much when we want it. Food? There’s Deliveroo and Food Panda for that. Music? Just type
what you like into Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Information? It’s everywhere.
Knowledge is the most valuable and useful commodity in the modern world. If you want to know about something, it’s there with the press of a few buttons.
The trouble is that you can easily have too much of a good thing.
Have you ever started looking into something and found yourself more lost than when you started? This is the problem with the sheer abundance of information
at our fingertips.
It’s similar to eating cake when you’re on a diet. At first you think just a little bit will satisfy you and then slowly but surely you’ve devoured the
entire thing – and somehow you’re still not full! Instead, you just feel groggy and worse than when you started.
The downside of limitless information
It sounds contradictory, but most modern research shows that research past a certain threshold can actually be detrimental to your understanding and mind.
People become incapable of making decisions or being creative simply due to the many choices and options before them.
According to Business Insider,
57% of US workers agree with the statement “Since the economic downturn, the amount of information that I have to process at work has significantly
increased”, and 52% agree that “The quality of my work suffers at times because I can’t sort through the information that I need quickly enough”.
Often, the problems may not be the result of having too many options; instead, they may come from overcrowding. The brain can cope with only a certain
number of tasks at once. If it has multiple processes going on at the same time, it can’t focus on one completely regardless of whether or not they’re
This is directly correlated to the applications you need to use to get your work done. The number of programs you have running while completing a task
can negatively affect your work output. Simply having an email application open can be quite distracting. For instance, 91% of US workers said that
they receive so much information on a daily basis that they sometimes “delete or discard work without fully reading it”. We just don’t have the time
to sit and sift through all the information coming our way.
Strategies for focus and effectiveness
A common component of information overload is inexperience. By simply reading about a topic but not experiencing it for yourself, you don’t get the full
story. Who would you rather trust to drive you around a racetrack: an engineer who loves reading about cars and knows every single part but doesn’t
have a licence, or a driver who’s been racing for 10 years? The driver may not know how to take the vehicle apart and put it back together again, but
they would be far safer, faster and more efficient behind the wheel than the engineer. Finding experience in the field you’re interested in is key
to finding success.
Other ways to combat information overload include certain tools and techniques to stimulate the brain appropriately. There are various programs and software
you can download to organise your emails, as well as diaries and notepads to sort out your schedule.
There’s a time management technique called Pomodoro designed to help the brain focus as much as possible without burning out. The idea is to work hard
for 25 minutes and then have a five-minute break. After four ‘Pomodoros’, you extend your break to 15–30 minutes before starting again. It is based
on the idea that you can give your full concentration and effort for only a certain amount of time. This way your time is separated and the total work
time doesn’t seem as long.
You may also want to turn off alerts from social media – especially while working or learning. The constant pops and dings from our phones can distract
from the information at hand, thus making it more confusing than it should be. Keep your social, educational and work lives separated. Having dedicated
times for each activity is incredibly useful for progress.
Reflecting just how much information overload affects the workplace, the same Business Insider article indicates that $650 billion a year is lost by US companies because of interruptions from new information.
A solution that works for you
The good news: information overload can be prevented if you take steps to avoid becoming another drowning victim in the sea of knowledge. Take your time
gaining experience, be sceptical and research your options. Manage your time appropriately – using time-management tools, if you find them helpful
– and test out everything you research. Experience and trying will be the best way to find a solution that works for you.
Mindfulness has also been proven to help one make more informed decisions and manage the information overload we face in our daily lives. Check out our latest mindfulness programs at www.emergeperformance.net/mbsr.html
And if you would like to see how mindful you are, consider taking a free mindfulness assessment survey and see your results at