Constantly distracted, losing focus easily? I know that feeling well. When you work for yourself, with no boss looking over your shoulder, It is hard to keep focused on your goals, and much easier to flick over to your favourite blog or website. I would definitely class myself as a “master procrastinator”. In this blog post, I look at how to reduce information overload, which will lower your stress levels and increase your productivity.
One of the biggest challenges of the “laptop lifestyle” is that the laptop itself is a huge distraction. Within seconds you have flipped from that 5000-word blog post you needed to write, to looking at videos on YouTube, checking email and browsing your Facebook timeline. And that leads to a whole new problem…”information overload“.
All the information and stimulation coming from the TV, the smartphone, the laptop and more are constantly keeping us ‘wired’ and stressed.
We’re on constant alert for messages (so much so that we feel ‘phantom vibrations’ in our pockets sometimes!) and we can hardly go more than five minutes without feeling the need to load up some form of technology. This isn’t healthy and it’s certainly not conducive to productivity. Learning how to reduce information overload will help you stay focused on the important tasks for the day.
How to reduce information overload
Pick some new hobbies (that don’t involve technology)
For many of us, every hobby that we have involves a screen of some sort – whether it’s gaming, watching films or using the computer. Eventually, the constant barrage of information, advertising, news and mind-numbing television will fry your brain (not literary). You need to take time away from technology, time away from the bright lights of screens and the noise which those devices pump out.
To avoid this situation then, make sure that you have some hobbies in your life that don’t involve screens and that require sustained focus and attention. A good example of that would be reading.
Reading a book not only offers a reprieve from the screen but it also means that you need to stay focused on that one thing for a good amount of time. Instead of flitting from one information stream to the next, your mind is completely focused and relaxed. This is actually almost like meditation.
Another good example is drawing. Drawing is a very relaxing hobby and you’d be surprised just how much pressure it can take off of you and how time flies when you’re enjoying it.
Going to the gym or playing sports is also good and so are things like DIY, bird watching, walking etc…anything where your phone stays in your pocket. And then make sure that you abide by this rule and keep your phone away for the duration of your new-found activity.
One major rule…NO PHONES 30 MINS BEFORE BED OR IN THE BEDROOM! If you want to shut off at night, leave the phone outside of the bedroom. For years I was charging my phone in the bedroom, it was the first thing I picked up in the morning and the last thing I touched at night. It’s a huge distraction and the light from the screen keeps your mind active, making it harder to fall asleep. If you really want to switch off and relax the mind, charge the phone in another room and shut off from it completely before bed. Heck, you can even talk to your partner instead if you like!
Is meditation for hippies? Not so much, it is a hobby we can all get into.
Meditation is simply the act of taking control of your inner monologue and using it to bring your mind to a calm. Different forms of meditation work differently – mindfulness vs transcendental for instance – but they both offer the same benefits.
Not only is meditation shown to be very good for us in the short-term by helping to encourage slower brain waves, but it also provides tools for combating stress and staying focused as necessary.
Have quiet time
The point at which your phones and computers become most destructive is in the evening. Not only do screens stress us out but the light itself also causes the release of cortisol, which acts against the release of melatonin. In other words, our brain treats a phone screen just like natural sunlight and prevents us from getting into a sleeping state of mind.
There are many solutions to this, some of which get quite ridiculous and include things like wearing blue-blocking shades to bed. Really, the most effective way avoid light from screens before bed is simply to stop using computers and phones for at least an hour before you go to sleep.
And better yet, use half an hour to read a book or something before you doze off. This will quiet your mind and help you to get deeper sleep once you actually do hit the hay.
And hopefully, it should go without saying that when you get home at the end of the day and are off work you do not answer any emails that are related to work. Don’t even look at your work email – it will only prevent you from properly relaxing.
Only focus on a few key objectives each day
Trying to do too much is a surefire way to increase your stress levels and reduce your productivity. One way to combat this is to set yourself only a few key objectives each day, once they are done, it’s YOU time. I try and set myself no more than 3 key tasks for each day. They are planned out the night before so I wake up knowing exactly what I have to achieve the next day. Your brain can only process so much information effectively, trying to overwork the mind will lead to less focus, less
I try and set myself no more than 3 key tasks for each day. They are planned out the night before so I wake up knowing exactly what I have to achieve the next day. Your brain can only process so much information effectively, trying to overwork the mind will lead to less focus, less productivity, and lower quality output. Give yourself a fighting chance by only giving yourself a few key tasks for each day. Once they are complete, you will feel a sense of accomplishment, that you have achieved your goals. Take the rest of the day off, hit the gym, go fishing, research your next big adventure.
Give yourself a fighting chance by only giving yourself a few key tasks for each day. Once they are complete, you will feel a sense of accomplishment, that you have achieved your goals. Take the rest of the day off, hit the gym, go fishing or research your next big adventure.
Work less, get organised, switch off from technology and get some new hobbies. You will soon learn how to reduce information overload and focus on the important things in life!