In our university days, you had to walk whatever distance it was to the University Library to get some information that you needed. That included reading the dailies! For certain information and sources, you even had to engage a library staff for help; or waited on several days’ queue before a certain book (the only one in the library) is returned by a Professor who had borrowed it before you.
These years, unbelievably too much, unnecessary and even destructive information is passed to us every second; on television, on our handheld devices, our computers, etc. Just take the most ubiquitous device, the phone, you are called on it, get SMS, emails, WhatsApp and WhatsApp-type applications and tons and tons more. Each brings some information to us, regardless of value.
Each information we decide to access must be read, listened to or watched. Then we must think through and make decisions about it. Each of these activities takes time and effort. And it affects us in other subconscious ways we may never realise.
We really don’t need and cannot even afford to expose ourselves to all the torrent of information that is dumped on us. Unfortunately, many people fear taking action to restrict information flow to them. But there are just two possible errors in information management: We can either miss some important information and suffer some consequences or we will spend too much time and effort accessing and processing vast information that is of no value of even destructive to us so as to avoid the first possible error. Depending on exactly what you do, more chances are that you will likely suffer the latter consequences than the former unless you do something.
We must, therefore, consciously manage how much and what type of information we allow ourselves to access and process. We can help ourselves by doing a few things that include:
1. Restrict what types of information we want to open ourselves to: Both professional and social circles can overload us with information that we really can do without. We should be be selective on what types of information are important and stick with them.
2. Select the most appropriate information sources we want to open ourselves to: This might depend on a few things peculiar to us, again such as profession, social circles, etc. Whatever sources we opt for, we should limit ourselves to them and change only if there are compelling reasons to.
3. Create a Routine: Routines are very important in our lives. We get to do things almost effortlessly as our body and mind get accustomed to them. Select time windows in which you would check your sources of information. Your professional sources should be checked a little more often on a daily basis than your social sources. Such should also be checked at your most productive times than your social sources.
4. Use Technology Against Technology: Use of appropriate shields can block certain information from even getting to you. Use them to save your time and enhance the quality of what gets to you.
5. Establish Standards: Many of us do not realise that we have a lot more control on our activities that we think we do. Simply by creating routines (above) and communicating to those who should know, will help you manage you information overload. For instance, I am an ‘early bird’. I try to retire for the day early as much as I can and also start my days early. I communicate this to everyone I believe should know. Over time, my professional colleagues, good friends and even extended family have come to accept this without any qualms. I get text messages in the evenings from people who would otherwise call but had assumed that I have already retired for the day!
6. Delegate: If you have the privilege, do not hesitate to delegate certain information access, processing and response to the appropriate people that can handle it for you. Remember than it is not ‘being busy’ that pushes you towards your success, rather, it is being effective in what you do!
Controlling the sources, quality and quantity of information that you access and process is key to your well-being and productivity.