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Coping With Information Overload
|© Jim Edwards - All Rights reserved
It's been said that the average New York Times Sunday
edition contains more information than a person in 15th
century England was exposed to during their entire
In the information age, our minds get bombarded daily with
so much data that we start filtering it out as a self-
On the Internet, the information overload gets so severe
that it seems to bring out the ADD (attention deficit
disorder) in all of us.
To make things worse, expect the avalanche of information
we must all deal with online to start coming faster and
harder and to never, ever stop.
Unlimited amounts of information available online
represents a truly double-edged mental sword.
On the good side, you can find out virtually anything you
want about any person, place, thing, fact, problem and
more. On the bad side, since you can find anything, many
people get lost and caught up in "everything" and never
In fact, most people end up drowning in a sea of
information when all they wanted was a simple drink of
To help you effectively deal with the never-ending torrent
of online information, let me offer 3 simple solutions that
will profoundly affect your ability to get things done.
First, operate with a clear purpose for what you plan to
Many people start out with a vague idea of what they want
to accomplish on the Web and end up wasting hours surfing
One simple solution: write down your purpose for going
online on a sticky note and put it on the side of your
Simple purpose statements like "Check email" or "Find map
to Detroit" or "Research where to advertise my blog" can
save countless hours by reminding you of your true purpose
for sitting down at the keyboard (and keep you from
wandering off to explore Britney Spears or The Simpsons).
Next, if you do want to go off on a sidetrack away from
your original purpose, set a time limit.
Kind of like recess in kindergarten, give yourself a set
amount of time to run free, but then get back in the
classroom and get back to business.
Typically, I give myself anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to
roam, but only if I think it will bear fruit for my purpose
in the end.
I also force myself to honestly answer the question, "Does
this really fit with my purpose for being online right
If not, then I goof off for about 5 minutes and then write
down the idea, website, or topic for future investigation.
By the way, a simple egg timer works great for this.
Finally, if you ever find yourself online without a
purpose, but can't seem to stop surfing or searching,
simply get up from your computer and walk away for a few
minutes to clear your head.
Often this represents the fastest way to stop yourself
wasting countless hours in meaningless activity online.
Bottom line, implementing simple strategies for dealing
with information overload online now will pay huge
dividends in peace of mind and time savings in the future.
About the author:
Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the
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