Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Suffer From Information Overload? Your 7 Step Action Plan

April 12, 2010 by  
Filed under All Posts, Business Practices

Saturday night I had one of those embarrassing moments we joke we’ll laugh about later. But it wasn’t just embarrassing, it was a glaring demonstration of an unsettling addiction I have – and a glaring example of a bad business practice many of us follow.

I’m addicted to multi-tasking.

And most likely, you are too.

Like right now, did you click on this article and if it took too long for you to load, you hopped on over and checked your email, and if you had nothing there, did you check if you had any text messages come in? Check Twitter or Facebook? Oh, and there’s that document on your desk that should have been faxed so you popped over to the fax machine, came back to your desk because you forgot the fax number and decided to check on the status of your video rendering….oh yeah, I wanted to read that article about information overload I just clicked on. And you never do get that document faxed. Ring true for you?

I’m known to open 10 or more programs and do something in each one and I in the moment I feel I’m being so efficient but by the end of the day, I don’t feel like I got much done. And chances are, I didn’t FINISH any of the projects I started that I was bound determined to finish. This is definitely not good for business.

Which brings me to my embarrassing moment and why it was a wake up call to me.

Last week, as I was waiting for something to download, or upload, or render, or I don’t know what, a friend of mine sent me a message in Facebook about his 50th birthday party. I saw that his friend was going to throw it for him on April 10th. Cool, I thought and called to my wife to see if we had any plans, found we didn’t and noted it on my calendar. A few days later I still hadn’t received any directions. That was weird, I thought, but figured he got busy and hadn’t had time to post, so I sent him off an email and he promptly replied with directions, etc. Found out the party was about 25 miles from us which okay and they wouldn’t turn down any food we wanted to bring, so I went shopping at our farmer’s market.

Saturday came and we got ready, prepared the biggest fresh salad you can imagine, packed up my guitars because we were going to jam, and took off later than I wanted. Now, I didn’t want to get there too early – party started at six – but didn’t want to miss out. By 6:30, we found the place all right. But there was something wrong.

There were no cars outside. Why?

The party was on May 15th. We weren’t a half an hour late, we were 6 weeks too early!

How could I have gotten the date so wrong? Why was I so sure I saw it on April 10th?

The answer is plain and simple, my wife of course, pointed out to me. Still a bit miffed at the situation, especially when I fussed with her about us running late, she declared, “You are on information overload and something must be done about it!” Serendipitously, an article about the book “Getting Organized in the Google Era: How to Get Stuff Out of Your Head, Find it When You Need it, and Get it Done Right,” by Douglas Merrill and James Martin, showed up in Sunday’s paper which gave me great advice to start to tackle this problem. I was busted.

The book states that our short-term memory cannot deal with more than five to nine things at the same time. Overburden our short-term memory and we forget things and make mistakes…like putting on two entirely different shoes and not noticing until you get to the airport to head on vacation as I reported in an earlier post, You Know You Need A Vacation When. Or driving 50 miles round trip to a party that won’t happen until next month!

So today, I start in a new direction to tackle this addiction. If this is also a problem for you, take note of my 7 step plan and wean yourself off the multi-task drug and get on the road to improving your efficiency and becoming more effective in your business.

1 – I will only check my email once an hour…my eventual goal is to check it three times a day.

2 – If an email headline doesn’t catch my eye, it will be deleted.

3 – I will turn off the cell phone while I am working.

4 – I will only have the programs open that I need at the time to complete my task. So yes, that includes logging out of my browser and email programs.

5 – I will clear my mind between tasks. Merrill says that doing this will help you not constantly fight your own cognitive limits. So I’m going to take a walk, play my guitar, brush the cat, whatever to give my mind a little break before I tackle my next to do item.

6 – I will get a better system for my to-dos. I just signed up for my free account at teuxdeux.com. It is a simple checklist program that looks clean and easy to use. I’ll keep you posted on how it works for me.

7 – I will spend 30 minutes a day and clean up my desktop; the real one and the virtual one.

I should add another step – stop working seven days a week! Working out of your home, like I do, sounds attractive to many people, but you really have to be disciplined. It is very easy to be “on” all the time, constantly checking emails, surfing for information, just mentally ticking. I admit, the hardest part of my plan will be checking email. I have a problem controlling this compulsion to check it throughout the day. Furthermore, because the business is in the home, it is too easy to work every day. The subtle message this sends your brain is that there is no time off, so you tend to work harder and longer.

I know I need a break from work, to let my brain think about something else, or nothing at all. I’m not a brain scientist, but I’ll bet that staring at clouds is good for your brain. I think I’ll try that and I recommend you give it a try too.

Do you have any advice how you handle your information overload or how you keep the multi-tasking compulsion at bay? Please give me your comments!


3 Responses to “Suffer From Information Overload? Your 7 Step Action Plan”
  1. Rick Toone says:

    I just got back from a 9 day vacation with the family. While I was gone I didn’t open up any editing programs, photoshop or Keynote, just emails. What a relief not to stay so connected and I found out that nothing happened while I was “unplugged”. I’m hoping I too can be better organized and not feel so attached to the keyboard. Taking time to breath is important.


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