Now, more than ever, we live in a world with not just a few streams of information, but several streams all with seemingly very useful and powerful messages. There are hours or even days when it feels like you are drowning in an ocean of meaningful and some less meaningful information and simple filtering still leaves more information than you can handle. This information overload causes our minds to be cluttered, productivity to drop, with a distinct lack of alone time, causing us to feel like there's less and less time in the day along with all the anxiety and stress that comes with that.
In days gone by without the internet, information was hard-sought for a purpose, whereas these days we are flooded with information that we are not seeking. The solution to banishing your own information overload is to decide what information you are seeking, reduce or eliminate the excess and reinstate solo reflection time.
Step 1 - Start with the end in mind
Without the internet, getting information was harder and more time consuming which meant we planned more asking ourselves:
- What to I want to do with this information?
- What am I going to produce?
- What specifically do I want to learn?
- What larger project or goal is this information for?
Step 2 - Reduce information intake to the essential
Once the end goal or project is established, the job of filtering out the essential from the non-essential information becomes far easier and much less stressful. Having a time limit for consuming this information before spending perhaps double that time producing something from that content furthers your own projects and goals which gives a feeling of progress and success further easing anxiety.
Step 3 - Finish every work session with a clear deliverable
As mentioned in book The Millionaire Fastlane, successful people take action first and then calibrate and refine it later. Decide at the beginning of a working session what the output will be. It could be achieving a milestone, creating a plan, writing a detailed email or course description. Whatever the output, once achieved work on that can stop, leaving more time for the next work session and output. Start using the motto, done is better than good.
Step 4 - Use time blocking and have routines
Having routines where regular tasks that need doing are done simply makes sense. Make a routine or schedule time blocks for journaling, answering emails, writing/creating, projects and tasks, weekly and monthly reviews and Cal Newport's deep work.
Step 5 - Have distraction-free deep work time
With your emails and messages scheduled to be answered at a certain time/s of day, it's time to switch off the notifications (or phone itself), unplug from the internet when not required and journal, write, create, do a weekly review or other deep thinking work that needs doing to progress. Because this deep work is usually not a one-time thing, have a starting and finishing routine that includes documenting where you are and all the thoughts that you now have.
Step 6 - Use a timed work and rest session technique
To focus your attention and create a small game for yourself, try using the Pomodoro Technique of working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5 minute break (with a 15-30 minute break after 4 work sessions). Some people modify this over time to be a longer working period (up to 90 minutes maximum) with a larger break (15-30 minutes) depending on the type of work required or their own known concentration cycles.
Step 7 - Use a morning and evening journal (distraction-free)
The main purpose of a morning journal is bring across anything from the previous day and set up your main focus for the day. While the evening journal's purpose is to close out the day with journaling thoughts, noting achievements, and finalising any tracking systems such as checking off tasks, documenting where a project is and adding new tasks and ideas that pop to mind.
When you start your work session with a goal and deliverable in mind, use time blocking and the Pomodoro Technique, ensure your distractions are turned off and journal morning and night, overload will not only be banished from your life but each day will become super productive.
Belinda Allan is an education advisor who is dedicated to empowering lifelong learners. By exploring the intersection of technology, personal development and learning futures, Belinda uses her expertise in education, IT and AI to guide individuals in creating the course or training program of their dreams. With a focus on how AI can drive productivity and well-being in the ever-changing landscape of education and work, Belinda will help you unlock your full potential.
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