10 Ways To Beat Information Overload
It’s actually possible for us to consume more than 24 hours of media per day.
We can read an article and listen to a podcast at the same time. We can watch a muted TV screen at the gym while listening to our favorite songs on a streaming playlist.
Will we consume the entire context of each of those things? Probably not, but we’re still getting a good portion of the context when we multitask like that.
But the crazy thing is that we have all this information and our minds still crave more.
We’re wired to crave dopamine and media gives us little hits of the stuff. It’s a survival instinct, but our evolution hasn’t necessarily caught up to the constant availability of content.
It’s the same thing with sugar. Our bodies crave it because in the caveman days sugar wasn’t readily available so we evolved to crave it so that when it was available we would eat it all and store energy for the lean times. But now sugar is everywhere and we still crave it and if we give into those cravings it leads to an obesity epidemic.
I’m all for information, but it seems that unless we’re able to control our information cravings that we can overload our brains.
Here are a few tips for avoiding the overload.
1. Remove Media Sources From Your Phone
This has been a big one for me.
And for all these, they’re suggestions if you’re looking to cut back on info. If you’re happy with the way things are then this post is not for you.
Anyway, I’ve kind of gone back and forth over the years with media on my phone.
Right now and for the last several months I’ve removed certain media sources from my phone. The final step was Instagram and Twitter. I’d find myself sitting around just pulling down on the feeds like they were slot machines. Waiting for any kind of new info.
Now I can’t do that. So I’ll sit and ponder life. Or create something for work.
I still have those media sources on my laptop, but for now at least I use my laptop more for work and I’m not on it all the time.
2. Eliminate The TV
I used to watch a lot of TV when I was growing up. I loved it. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to understand that TV gives me a dopamine hit. I cut the cord with cable years ago not because I didn’t like paying for it or because I didn’t like it, but because I love it so much.
I haven’t gotten to the point of taking the TV out of the house, but that would be the next big step.
3. Focus On Slow Media
In the last several years I’ve gotten back into slow media. Especially books. I love technology and all that stuff. I think it’s great. I’ll never go back, but I do still find positive aspects to reading books.
I kind of think of books as slow media. You can’t pull down to refresh a book.
I do the same things by reading long articles on Longreads or Longform. I also do the same thing with long videos on YouTube. It seems to allow for more focus and thought and understand…and hopefully growth.
4. Align Goals & Goal Positive Info
What do you want to accomplish in life?
So much of the information we consume doesn’t help us achieve our goals. I find that news is a big one. A few years ago I stopped watching and reading news.
I didn’t really miss out on much. Occasionally it might feel odd when someone says, “Did you hear about…” and I have no idea what they’re saying.
But about two seconds later everything is back to normal.
The news rarely helps us achieve our goals.
Entertainment is often the same way. I rarely help myself get to a business goal by looking at social media or watching a video on YouTube.
The whole key with this point is knowing what you want in life and being able to focus on the information that will help you get to where you want to go.
5. Assess Feelings And Reactions To Various Info
Another big thing with information is to analyze how it makes you feel. Again, we can go back to the news. It’s often presented in a way to make you feel negative. For some odd reason that gives us a hit of dopamine. And when it does we keep coming back for more and more.
We’re wired to keep going back, but over time it can wear us down. We have to fight our nature. To be able to do that we have to see how we react to information. If it’s negative it’s a good sign that we can do without it.
6. Find Quiet, Self Reflective Activities
For me it’s walking in nature.
We bring so much information into our brains that we don’t leave room for self reflection. We don’t leave time to analyze ourselves and our lives. We don’t look at the world around us and figure out how we fit in.
7. Break Reactionary Habits
This is when you reach for the info without even thinking about it.
Ever since the smartphone came out we’ve been wiring ourselves to look for information without even thinking about it. That’s our evolutionary selves taking over. We used to need information to survive so we craved it without even thinking.
But thankfully we have the power to control our reactions. We just have to recognize the times when we do things without thinking and then look for ways to break those habits.
One was is to remove the option. You can’t refresh Facebook without thinking about it if it’s not on your phone.
8. Observe Others
It’s amazing what we miss about the world when we’re looking at our phones. I think comics are some of the best at observing the world. I would guess that they have to put their phones down a lot in order to remain at the top of their game.
While we’re looking at our phones they’re watching us looking at our phones. They’re finding the odd things about life and using it for their bits.
There are a couple positives about observing others.
First, you can learn a lot about life by watching others. You learn other perspectives. You learn empathy. You discover opportunity.
Second, you learn about what you don’t want to do. For example, you may see a parent ignoring their child because they’re looking at their phone. You get a negative reaction to it. Then you realize that you do that all the time…
9. Assess Your Busyness Levels
All this information can make us feel busy. The next time you find yourself giving the answer, “I’m busy.” take a moment to think about what’s making you busy. Go through everything. You’ll probably find that you’re high on information overload. You feel busy because you’re trying to squeeze in so much information.
If that’s the case it’s time to start cutting back.
10. Audit Your Subscriptions
One amazing thing I did a couple years ago was to assess every email coming into my inbox and determine if I really wanted to continue subscribing. I probably cut out 95% of it.
You can do the same thing with all subscription. YouTube, Twitter, etc. All of it.
How many sources of information do you need?
Probably not even close to the number that you currently have.
The first thing with this article is the realization that you have information overload. You may feel like you’re fine. And that’s cool. You don’t need this article. But if you are feeling overwhelmed and also feeling like you’re not doing what you want to do in life, then taking the steps above can be steps in a positive direction.