3 Proven Ways to Overcome Information Overwhelm

If you’ve seen pictures of a Tsunami, you know what kind of devastation, chaos and havoc they can wreak. Do you ever felt like your personal and professional life…..your brain…..is a lot like that sometimes (or most of the time)?

Your not alone. It’s been said that in the last few decades, in particular the last one, that we’ve all been overcome by a Tsunami of a different sort: information overload.  Our problem is no longer not enough information, but how to recognize what information we need and what to ignore. How can you overcome it?

Here are 3 ways:

First, you have to first protect the Asset (you). What follows may not seem relevant, but it actually starts here.

  • Get a calendar that works for you and then lean into it; what gets on the calendar gets done. Electronic is best because you can interface and automate other productivity tools, but most important is that it actually works for you. Remember, your calendar is NOT your task list (big mistake), although having a task list that can interface and put tasks on your calendar is ideal.
  • Find a task-list that works for you. I used ToDo in the past, but switched to Nozbe (really an overall productivity system) about a year and a 1/2 ago and haven’t looked back since, especially since it interfaces with my calendar, Evernote, and Dropbox.
  • Get a priority and goal tracking system in place so you at the destination of your own choosing. How will it matter if you accomplish all your goals but arrive at the wrong destination? I’ve found that MH 5 Days To Your Best Year Ever course and Darren Hardy’s Living Your Best Year Ever (this one is more complicated) are both good compasses that help me do just that. Tying these tools into my weekly planning session has been transformative.
  • Finally, carve out time and a space to think so you can be intentional about how you need to make these work for you.

The things above will allow you to keep your head above water so you can now begin to do something about the perpetual, oncoming information wave.

Second, determine what areas your passionate about, information and knowledge you want to master, keep up with, and be able to retrieve.

  • This includes both stuff you want to know as well as the stuff you need to know.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a major change in what topics you keep up with, even if it means giving up something you’ve followed for decades and are considered and “expert” at. When I became a professional coach, I started keeping up with information related to that field instead of physical therapy clinical practice. You have to accept that you can’t keep up with everything.
  • Have a knowledge networking system for topics and Information you want to keep a pulse on but not necessarily master or retrieve. Having subject matter experts (SME’s) who are your friends, colleagues as well as web personalities and sites that you can tap into whenever the need arises are invaluable. Knowing what you need to be an SME in and what you can let go and rely on your network for is remarkably freeing.
  • Develop an information foraging system that fits your current needs.  It will take some time and may be as simple as who you follow on Twitter or the blogs you visit or subscribe to, but make sure you have a schedule and routine. I find information has to come or be “pushed” to me via Twitter, feeds or e-mail vs me having to go get it in order to be sustainable.
  • Consistently keep up with the fewest sources possible that give you the most information (80/20 rule here).  For the last two years, Michael Hyatt’s website and podcast have been my single best “1-stop shop” knowledge and productive resource site for helping me keep my Outer focus.  If you haven’t connected with Michael Hyatt, you’re missing out. In fact, if you sign up for his blog you’ll get some great freebies, the most current one being How to have 10 Hours Off Your Workweek e-book.  The Inside My Toolbox e-book was gold but isn’t currently available; maybe it will be again soon.CUE 2000II

Third, have an information management system that works for you.

  • Are you dealing with hard-copy, soft-copy or a combination?
  • My system has evolved over the years. Before the advent of the Web, it consisted of hard-copy manila folders and arranging my soft-files in Explorer (and later Finder when I switched to a Mac).
  • How you organize your file system will be important and determine whether you’re really able to use it. There are lots of ways to do it, but the most important thing is to find one that works for you….and that will probably take some experimenting.
  • Put as much as you can in one place and make it as automatic as possible. I’ve been going soft-copy whenever possible. ScanSnap makes turning your hard-stuff to soft-stuff pretty easy as does Evernote’s web-clipper tool for stuff you find on the web.

Finally, my daily morning ritual is the fuel that makes all this go for me. Without that, I get out of alignment with myself, things drop and I lose focus on just about everything very, very quickly.

How about you? Please leave a comment and let me know what your doing to effectively keep your head above the information Tsunami and building your Outer focus as well as where you’re struggling.  Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “3 Proven Ways to Overcome Information Overwhelm

  1. Thanks for the tips.

    I recently joined Twitter with the goal of increasing resources necessary for professional and personal development. Your Tsunami metaphor is an accurate description of what I have experienced. I am adding relevant articles to my reading list and this seems to be working.

    I am also embarking on other professional ventures which will require step 1 so thank you for explaining the importance of this initial step.

    A daily routine is a struggle for me but I do recognize when performing this activity it has substantial benefits.

    What are your thoughts about consistency and how this relates to the “tsunami effect”?

  2. Jose,

    Consistency is the more important starting out than just about anything else (as long as your heading in the right direction). It’s more important than quantity, quality or any other quality. The main reason? Because showing up day after day after day after day result in then allowing you to leverage the Power of Habit (read this book by Charles Duhigg if you haven’t already).

    Stay consistent, my friend and habit will soon follow after.

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