How to Filter Information in a World of Too Much Data

by | Knowledge Management

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(CC Image courtesy of Will Lion)

According to an article published by the BBC, we’re now exposed to as much data in a single day as someone in the 15th century would be in their entire lifetime. In a single day we are bombarded with the information equivalent to approximately 12,775 days of an average person from the Late Middle Ages! That’s pretty crazy, but it explains what our modern digital lives have become. There is this raging river of information coming at us every day; emails beam in by the minute, documents are sent as attachments or saved in cluttered folders. Advertisements woven with news blare on the TV and radio. Facebook feeds endlessly chug along while Twitter is chirping by its side. And good ol’ newspapers and magazine articles act as mind fodder for the moments in between. Through all of this, for the most part, we are relying on our memory to keep track of everything. Think about it… have you ever had trouble remembering where you put something? Have you ever forgot to capture something and then lost it? Have you ever wasted time looking for something in cluttered, disorganized piles? Chances are that you’ve experienced at least one of these. So what’s going on? Actually, due to the internet and all those great platforms that we love to use, like Facebook, Dropbox, and Pinterest, the amount of information being created is growing at lightning speed – over 1000 billion gigabytes per year by 2015. So what does this mean to our daily lives? In nutshell, there is more to learn and remember now than ever before. It also means that we forget and lose more, wasting time and money looking for things or needlessly doing things over. So what in the world can we do about it?
The trick to managing our digital lives lies in simple habits — NOT TECHNOLOGY. Did I read that right? Not technology? Can’t I just use Evernote or some other platform? Actually, NO! At the core, information overload and digital dementia are human problems and need to be solved by doing things differently. When we open up the fire hydrant of information on a daily basis we also need to take the time to shut it off and stop, reflect, relax and learn. Our overwhelmed brains are our own faults. We push too hard, rarely pause, and look to technology to solve our problems but in reality, technology is just a tool, the problem of information overload is one we control. Some things that we can do to calm our brains and stay more focused and alert throughout our day are as follows:

  • Batch all email activities into set times throughout the day and otherwise, turn it off, shutting down, disconnect.
  • Segregate creative activities from To Dos and action items. As mentioned in a previous article, multitasking is the method of stupid. Batching all your To Dos into a set block of time and then just crushing them is much more effective (and sane), than switching back and forth between activities.
  • Set time aside for creative activities and turn off your phone, shut down Facebook, turn off all alerts and focus on what you want to create.
  • Again, batch your web surfing into set blocks of time and eliminate distractions when you do.
  • Tune out at the end of the day. Give yourself 30 minutes plus away from all the noise of life and learn to relax. Meditation is a nice activity, journal writing, reading a book or even taking a long shower are others.

At the end of the day, we control the fire hydrant of daily information. We can try to drink from it all day or we can choose when to turn it on and off. Habits, not technology, are the solution to being overwhelmed by information and with practice, we can slowly win back our minds.

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