Every day, we create over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data and that amount is expected to double in the coming years. There is a constant supply of information to deal with but unfortunately, the hours of the day have not increased. We want to excel at our respective roles and the pressure to keep up with vital information is real and something we have to deal with on a daily basis.
With limited time to respond to the messages bombarding us and technological innovations that enable us to stay available 24/7, there is little or no time to actually stop and recharge. Instead, we are constantly told to “know a little something about everything” so we can stay at the top of our game. But, there is such a thing as information overload and it is drastically affecting the work you do as a communication professional.
What is Information Overload?
Information overload simply means having to process an amount of information on a daily basis that you cannot possibly keep up with. So many types of information contribute to the menace of information overload, such as emails, blog posts, work documents, text messages and so on. The various platforms we use don’t make it any easier as there are always new upgrades, new strategies, new trends and statistics to keep up in your industry. You think you have gotten a hang of how a platform works and boom, there’s a new feature to deal with.
Welcome to the 21st century where there is an app for almost every work process and hundreds of materials for every problem that arises. While you’re trying to understand one piece of information, the thought of missing out on a whole lot more haunts you. We can all agree that there is too much information available but too little time to process it.
Dangers of Information Overload
Information overload has a much more negative impact on our retention capacity than we are willing to admit. It’s been said that a reader’s processing capacity goes down as the amount of information it processes goes up.
Information overload leads to burnout. While there are tremendous benefits that come with easily accessing timely and useful information to boost your career or on anything you want to learn about, we cannot possibly digest the countless information that’s been made available. And the more information we consume, the more our chances of getting confused, stressed and anxious.
- Lower Productivity Levels
The staggering amount of information you have to engage with on a daily basis can become discouraging and cause you to lose interest and motivation to do your work. The pressure to keep up with the constant inflow of information can greatly restrict your creative process and negatively impact your work performance.
- Poor decision making
When you are not adequately informed, there is a tendency to make poor decisions. On the other hand, having too much information to process can cause indecisiveness and confusion. This would have a ripple effect on other workflow processes and impede progress.
How to Deal With Information Overload
There is no one-size-fits-all for dealing with information overload. But there are strategies we can utilize as communication professionals and some of them are;
- Distinguish Reliable and In-depth Sources for the Information you’re Seeking.
As a Communications professional, there are certain sources for access to relevant and exhaustive information on whatever you’re searching for. These sources could include publications, websites, blogs, and hard news sources that frequently provide the latest updates, trends and whatever is happening in the industry. This will save you time spent surfing endlessly through many websites and drastically reduce information overload. You can find some reliable sources on the Early Years in Comms career guide here.
- Set Limits on How Much Information You Can Take
Although you’ve probably decided on regular sources to call home when searching for information, you have to decide your intake limit. To help you achieve this, you should have an idea of the type of information you are looking for. Having a standard will let you know when you have made considerable progress in your research.
- Stop Storing Loads of Information to Go Back To
More than half the time, you never go back to the piles of information you’ve stored up and what’s worse is that you then feel guilty about it. Be ruthless about choosing what is relevant or irrelevant per time so you do not get overwhelmed by the amount of information you have to go back to later.
- Learn to Delegate the Information Gathering Process
As you grow in your profession, you can assign the information-gathering process to team members under your leadership. They can sort through the information and pick out the vital parts, giving you enough room to think strategically of ways you can achieve your goals. However, if you still have to do it yourself, there should be a time limit on the information-gathering process so you can move on to other productive tasks.
- Create Automated Response Systems
An overwhelming inflow of messages to respond to and calls to return can also contribute to information overload. So, you can create automation systems in response to messages you receive on a regular basis. You can also draft personalized signature responses that help you respond to your emails or other messages effectively and on time too.
- Organize and Review Your Information Bank Regularly
Organizing your documents is a necessary way to avoid more stress. It ensures there are no piles of irrelevant information in your database because every data received is organized and utilized. At intervals, review and do away with information that is no longer relevant. You could do it in batches so the process in itself doesn’t become overwhelming
- Go offline
One unconventional way you can combat information overload is by staying offline. You would be amazed at the number of hours you can invest in conducting deep work when you do not have notifications interrupting your workflow.
- Learn to filter information
Although there is that unspoken fear that you might miss out on one very important piece of information in your filtering process, it is unrealistic to think you can absorb every material available on that topic you are researching on. You can create your standards and metrics to filter out the information you deem irrelevant.
- Learn to prioritize
Prioritizing is an inevitable part of your work process as a communications professional. Narrowing down your core activities to three or five major tasks in a day can make a huge difference and have a positive impact on your work output. This will also ensure that you are not overly distracted by the different information coming at you per hour.
Managing information overload basically involves developing processes that guide how you source information and utilize it. Information overload is a concept that we have to deal with on a daily basis and utilizing the strategies listed above will help you achieve your goals without feeling overwhelmed.