How To Overcome Information Overload
The term doomscrolling or doomsurfing gained immense popularity during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. These refer to the…
April 20, 2021 | 4 mins read
The term doomscrolling or doomsurfing gained immense popularity during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. These refer to the act of endlessly scrolling through the news. While it helped people stay informed about the outbreaks and rescue centers, it also meant constantly engaging with news related to often depressing developments.
Doomscrolling is a typical response to this digitally-driven era. It’s a type of information overload people find hard to avoid as a result of social media and other digital platforms. Even in the workplace, we’re constantly being exposed to heaps of information at any given point. From emails to presentations, our minds are constantly engaged. Read on to see why information overload isn’t healthy and the best ways to tackle it.
Information overload happens when the amount of information we are exposed to exceeds our processing capacity. In other words, we’re confronted by large amounts of information. It was Bertram Gross—a political science professor—who coined the term ‘information overload’ in his book, The Management of Organizations (1964). It was later popularized by Alvin Toffler—an American writer—in his book, Future Shock (1970).
While the internet has been a boon in many ways, it has also been a bane. Thanks to the online world, we’re exposed to staggering amounts of new information every day. Whether it's email communication, social media or even reading the news, a majority of the population is constantly consuming information. An increasing number of digital platforms has added to the existing pool of data. We have too many choices and not enough time to process most of what we take in. Even the most successful business leaders struggle with analysis paralysis—unable to make decisions because of overwhelming amounts of information—which ultimately affects alignments and strategic vision in the workplace.
There is a threshold beyond which your mind is unable to absorb any more data—that’s when you’ve hit true information overload. You might get exhausted and experience brain fog, where your decision-making abilities are diminished.
The symptoms of information overload can be commonly observed in the workplace. For example, a typical meeting exceeds its time limit because participants want to constantly engage in information exchange. While this can be instrumental in decision-making, it may also lead to information overload in communication. There isn’t much room for action but plenty of room for discussion. It further slows down the overall productivity and efficiency, affecting business growth and outcomes.
Here’s why information overload in communication is bad for you and your organization.
Information overload prompts multitasking as you’re answering texts, emails and phone calls at the same time. It eventually affects your decision-making and there are logical fallacies (thinking that’s not grounded in logic) in your approach and arguments.
Consuming so much information at one time affects your mind and focus. It makes you less efficient because you’re tired after excessive mental performance and processing.
Most importantly, information overload in communication affects your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Having access to a variety of data and tasks can cause stress and anxiety. It may even impact your interpersonal relationships as you struggle with cognitive overload.
The biggest challenge with information overload is that it makes you feel paralyzed. You have too much data but are unable to act upon that data. Self-control can be helpful in managing and overcoming information overload. Consider these strategies if you want to curb information overload and start achieving more.
The best way to gain control over the information in your mind is to do a brain dump. Try clearing the mind by writing down any thoughts interrupting your flow. Clear your head by focusing on what’s important and prioritizing that.
There will be several tasks such as answering texts, emails and tidying up your workstation that don’t require much time. Fix an hour in the day when you can complete all of these tasks in one go. As it doesn’t require too much focus, you can schedule such tasks toward the end of your workday.
Your mind needs rest as much as your body does. Avoid mental exhaustion by unplugging from the (digital) world. Take active measures toward not doing anything by disabling notifications or turning your phone off. Use the free time to read, meditate or do absolutely nothing!
One of the most effective ways to deal with information overload is to work on your communication skills. Whether you’re reading something on your screen or listening to a coworker, excessive information is both unnecessary and harmful. In such scenarios, focusing on what’s really important helps.
Harappa’s Listening Actively course will help you practice effective listening. You’ll learn to listen to the information you want to focus on. The HARP (Hearing, Attention, Response and Perception) Equation will help you pay attention to important details. The Listening Climate will teach you how to sharpen your listening skills. Listen actively and don’t let information overpower you again!
Explore topics such as Active Listening, Types of Listening, What is Empathic Listening, Understanding the Listening Process & Listening Barriers from Harappa Diaries and develop skills to become a better listener.