Norton: Create a focused approach to managing information overload (column)
Thanks again for the tremendous support from the community, I really do love receiving your emails, thoughts and questions, so please keep them coming.
One of the more common emails I receive lately is this: “Help, I am suffering from communication overload.” Most people go on with greater detail about the amount of emails, posts, tweets, voicemails, breaking news flashes and sports updates that they receive. They share that the noise is deafening.
I explored this a little further with my own network, family and friends. I wanted to know just how common this feeling was inside my own circle of friends and colleagues, and what I got back was consistent with our community’s emails: There is simply too much information coming our way at any one moment. I heard expressions like “information overload,” “information fatigue” and “noisy nonsense.”
As new apps are developed, and new technologies are built to help us streamline our lives and make access to information easier, they also bring with them the unintended consequence of too much noise, too much information and fatigue. There is a population of people who have figured out how to maximize these technologies and love the efficiencies that they create, but for the greater population, my research tells me that it is only creating more noise, more confusion and more frustration.
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If this is the case, then what is the answer? Here are a few ideas.
Focusing on what is to be considered a “must have” and not what is a “nice to have.” I know that at almost every conference I attend, I have a colleague or peer share with me the newest and coolest app or service they have found. At first, I get excited and think I need to download it, but then I remember that it really is just one more nice-to-have, and not a have-to-have. So, I stay focused on my essential avenues of information.
A couple of business associates shared with me that they gave up their online news apps more than a year ago. They took the apps off their phones and tablets so they could determine when and how they wanted to consume the news. As it turned out, all that “breaking news” wasn’t so breaking after all and would be available to them when and how they wanted to consume it.
Another best practice is the way we read our email. Set up three times a day only, and stay committed to the practice. Check it once in the morning, once midday and once in the later afternoon or evening. We can all argue that we are so important that we need to be available all day, 24/7, but the reality is that if there is something that important or urgent happening, the other person or company knows how to reach us by telephone.
Focus is a big word for some. Many of us believe we can multitask, but we really can’t. When we give up our commitment to focus and spread ourselves too thin, our attempts at multitasking become even less effective. So as information comes at us so fast and in so many ways, the best thing we can do is slow down, shut down, so that we can apply our focus on the right things at the right time.
A lack of focus is hurting our family time, too. Look around at a family traveling together at the airport or dining together in a restaurant; they will all be heads down on the devices — emails, texts, games, news, scores and other things.
A lack of focus is killing our productivity at work. Not saying that we shouldn’t use technology to connect, but when we have way too many sources of communication, tools, systems, processes, initiatives and requirements, what happens is that everything we put in place to create enablement and efficiencies for our teams at work is actually fostering inefficiencies and disablement in the workplace.
So, how about you? Is the noise deafening? Do you have a strategy for how you deal with information overload and fatigue? Whether you need some help and coaching in this area or you have it all under control, I would love to hear your story at goto firstname.lastname@example.org. And when we can apply our focus to the right areas of life, including our consumption of information, it really will be a better-than-good week.
Michael Norton is the president of the Zig Ziglar Corporate Training Solutions Team, a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.
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