Hello, digital junkie! Excuse me? Lol…never mind.
A quick question for you: Can you last for one full hour without looking at some sort of a screen be it a mobile phone, tablet, TV, laptop or PC?
Very difficult, isn’t it?
We live in an age where we have become addicted to screens.
Most of us most of the time are digitally connected with one another regardless of our physical location, our age or our occupation. Every home is wired, and everyone is plugged-in breathing information day in and day out.
There are now over 1.2 billion people on Facebook. In the USA, people have an average of 250 Facebook friends – meaning a lot of messages to read when they update their timeline.
It’s not hard to imagine that you might just have sent a few WhatsApp messages to your contact list, updated your status on Facebook, read a few tweets and responded to other ones, or downloaded a free report or e-book after subscribing to some famous blogger’s newsletter, and read few e-mails and online blog posts before you actually started reading this paragraph. True or…true?
Welcome to the age of Information Overload!
These days we are bombarded with all sorts of information from all corners.
This simply drags us to the compulsive reading of a lot of information on a daily basis continuously.
And certainly, it affects how we live and function.
An Overview of Contents
Let’s look at a few numbers
- In the USA, a person consumes 60 hours/week taking in web content, especially from social media.
- In 2008, Salary.com and UCLA conducted one survey and found out that on average workers waste up to 2.09 hours in one day online.
- Every second of the day, an average of 58 photos are posted on Instagram (source: b2c.com)
- Each day, a person receives a whopping 285 pieces of content (that is 44,000 words) (source b2c.com)
- 20 million e-mail or private messages are sent every 30 seconds (source: b2c.com)
How does this affect me? Well, observe people around you next time when you go to the park or gym or restaurant.
You’ll notice that a mobile phone has become an integral part of people’s lives. Now and then people feel this strange compulsion to pull out their device and start looking at their mobile screen.
Type any word into a search engine and there will be plenty of links for Google, YouTube, Quora, Wikipedia, blogs, and forums that throw tons of information on your screen for that subject.
The ocean of information only sinks you into a passive state of reading. You keep reading until you feel fatigue and get really tired.
Your information processing capacity simply declines, and it becomes difficult to arrive at any conclusion or to make any decision.
In fact, you have no time to put your learning into action to see any concrete result. Rather than adding value to your time investment, it only wastes your many precious hours.
Effects of Information Overload
Here are some ways in which the overload of information affects the quality of our life.
1. Decreased Attention Span
The technology giant Microsoft has conducted a consumer research to find out the human brain’s average attention span.
They discovered that our attention span is now decreased from 12 seconds (in 2000) to 8 seconds (in 2013), which is even less than a Goldfish. A Goldfish has its 9 seconds.
Herbert Simon has rightly said that “A wealth of information creates poverty of attention.”
Alright, you might be thinking how does this matter to me? Well, think for a moment, what can happen to your resume that you sent out for your dream job when the recruiter has thousands of resume to scan through!
You only have less than 8 seconds to make it or break it.
2. Being a Victim of Analysis Paralysis
If you’re diving into an ocean of information with a view to acquiring more knowledge on a specific subject, you simply will sink in and never surface.
There are so many different views, options, and explanations found on any given subject that it will cause researchitis in your brain.
You will be tempted to dig deeper. This only takes up more time than required from your busy day. Too many options simply weaken your commitment to move forward.
3. Poor Decision-Making
An overloaded brain is prone to make wrong choices just to regret them later.
Daniel Kahneman explains in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” that while we would love to think that our decisions are rational, the majority of them are based on intuition or gut feeling.
The problem we face now is that we simply have to make a lot of decisions because we have a lot of choices to select from for any given problem. This is truly exhausting and leads us to decision fatigue after some time.
Decision fatigue affects judges, graders, and anyone whose job involves continuous judgement
4. Information Obesity
Today for every single question whether it be related to health, wealth, relationship or as simple as the question of how to make an Indian curry…you simply ask Google Guru and Dr. YouTube.
Note that not all the information posted on the internet is from authentic sources. They contribute to your enhancement, enlightenment, and confusion equally.
To avoid a fat brain, we have to choose the diet we select for our brain mindfully; otherwise, we will just consume lots of extra empty calories at the Fast Food restaurant called the Internet.
The way we choose our diet mindfully to avoid obesity, we must practice mindfulness when it comes to consume information.
5. Health Issues
“Plugged in” compulsion and the urge of “staying in touch” has given birth to many health issues such as stress, hurry sickness, strained eyes, fatigue, and also now tech neck (result of constantly bending our neck to look into our mobile screen.)
Obviously, our physical movement has been reduced drastically resulting in sudden weight gain and related diseases.
6. Development of Wrong and Damaging Belief System
I am sure you must have read this sales page where the title reads: Find Your Passion, Work From Home, or Ditch Your job and Travel Anywhere You Want.
Many so called successful bloggers employ their impressive copywriting skills to write a sales page or a blog post to promote their information products.
This mass information movement is so delusive that it persuades you to buy into wrong notions regarding success. No wonder it results in confusion, failure, and frustration.
There is no short cut to success and no substitution for hard work.
How to Overcome and Manage Information Overload
Content consumption is a highly personal choice; however, one should know when it affects your quality of life.
Mindfulness and commitment are two elements with which you can overcome information overload.
1. Clarity of Purpose
Technology is there to serve us. We should use it to enhance our quality of life.
Limit your usage and use only as much as you really need. Whenever you go online, or read something online ask yourself: “What’s my purpose for doing this? And how effectively can I complete this in the least amount of time?”
This awareness alone will help you to bring your focus back to the purpose.
2. Focus on Single Tasking
Interrupting one task with another may be necessary sometimes and also it is fun. However, it definitely slows us down.
The important task should be completed with single-mindedness and undivided attention. It’s not only worth it but most rewarding also.
That being said, we also must know the difference between things that can be clubbed together (e.g. watching TV while you are on the treadmill) and the things that cannot be multitasked (e.g. reading a book when you’re cooking).
Multitasking simply cannot be practiced everywhere.
3. Appreciate Nature
When did you last stare at our magnificent sky for a long time?
Take some time out from constantly staring at screens, and instead, look up and watch the sky for five minutes every day.
Dark, starry, pouring, shining, sunny or cloudy—whatever the color of the sky, the magnanimity of it will simply calm you down. Spending time with nature brings us back to our life source.
I would like to share this beautiful poem titled Leisure by William Henry Davis that my English teacher taught me in my early schooldays.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
4. Work in a Distraction Free Environment
Work in small sprints with frequent breaks, and while doing so, make sure that your environment is distraction free.
Ask your family, friend, or colleague to help you remain focused. They can watch out for any external disturbance when you are working for 60 minutes with full focus.
They will help, and you will notice a difference in how much faster you accomplish your tasks.
5. Nurture Your Relationship with Attention and Care
With growing TV channels and smart phone access, family members are getting disconnected from each other despite sharing the same shelter and food.
Even in a park or restaurant, it feels like we are more close to our device than our friend or family member standing right next to us.
Put your phone aside and look into the eyes of the other person when they talk. Reciprocate with love and care.
Every day I go for a walk in my neighbourhood with my wife and our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. I made a simple rule; we won’t take our phone with us when we go for a walk.
What fun talking and laughing together! Try it, go out with your family or friend without your phone, and notice the positive difference.
When you are with your friends or family, put your phone aside to connect with them. And when you are alone, pull out your phone and use it to connect with your friends and family – that’s actually the purpose of the device.
6. Limit Your Time with Electronics
Have you noticed that staying in close proximity to electronics devices for a long period actually drains you out, and you feel tired and heavy?
At work, take frequent breaks, wash your eyes with cool water, do some deep breathing, stretches, or stand up and go for a brisk walk or climb staircases.
This will help your blood rotation, and you will feel energetic.
7. Unsubscribe – Unfollow
There are many experts and many wonderful blogs in the same niche. However, limit yourself to one or two.
Feel free to unsubscribe or unfollow all that you are not able to read regularly.
Follow one expert for some time. Read his/her work for at least six months and give yourself time to implement your learning.
8. Be an Action Warrior
Let’s not forget that real results come from actual actions, not from thinking, dreaming or planning.
It’s okay to have one or two goals. Write down your why – your purpose statement for that goal, and read it twice a day to remain focused and clear on your objective.
Devote the rest of your day taking actions for the achievement of the same goal.
Remember, reading ten books on meditation is convenient, but actually sitting and doing meditation for 10 minutes every day is a different ball game and will actually take less time and help you more.
A thoughtful proverb in Sanskrit says: ज्ञानम् भारम् क्रिया विना? – Meaning, the knowledge which is not in action, is simply a burden. You only can do so much after knowing something. Drop the burden and start living.
Stop spending your whole life in preparing to live, start living now. Unplug yourself and start living. Turn off the internet, switch off your phone. Breathe. Smile. Talk. Feel.
Over to You –
How about you? How do you stay focused, make right decisions, and live a balanced and productive life while dealing with the information overload in your day to day life?
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