Information Overload

By Eric Zehr, Victor Appliance

I read an article awhile back about how we only use a small percentage of our brains on a daily basis. I have heard     this before and try to use mine more than the average person. This particular article, however, explained that for the first time in history we are being inundated with information so fast that we are not as effective or creative as we were without so much information.

Well, what does this guy know about it? At the time I didn’t think much of the article because I assumed I could handle this huge amount of information. I am now rethinking this. For the first time, I find myself struggling to implement several new procedures in my business and I am frustrated.  Then this article came to mind. I began to keep track of how much data I was taking in.

I wake up in the morning and check the phone to get the weather, review what my Facebook friends are up to and handle emails while I catch a bit of the news on the TV. Then, I check emails again. We need rain, so I check the radar to see how the storms are tracking. I rise early so I can get some reading done. This week I notice that I am in the process of reading five books, three magazines, and eight newspapers.

The cell phone never leaves me. It is always on; always interrupting. You all get the idea. How many ways do we get data in a week? TV, radio, phones, faxes, emails, Tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn, newspapers, magazines, books, ebooks, billboards, mail, and oh yeah, we even meet people face-to-face.

There are more ways to stay connected and become informed than any time in history. I have the perfect reason to do so: I run a business.  I think that article was right, we have so much information coming at us that we can become less effective. I am finding this to be true for me and I am starting to take deliberate steps to change.  To begin with, the phone gets turned off when I get home and I put it face down so I can’t see the flashing light that screams “pick me up”.

My son is a trained diesel mechanic. He has a beautiful toolbox with a custom paint job and it is full of the most awesome tools you have ever seen. The things you could do with all these tools.  There is a drawer that has electrical tools. There is a drawer with gauges and meters. There is a drawer of pullers and another with impact sockets. He doesn’t use all these tools for every job. He chooses the best tool for the job. He doesn’t use tools that are ineffective. He also keeps them organized and isn’t distracted by tools lying all over the place.

The thing to remember is this:  all these forms of communication and information exchange are simply tools. We need to be careful of how we manage and use our tools. How organized is your communication toolbox? Are you using your tools in the most effective ways possible? Are you trying to use more tools than you need?

Share with us how you cope with information overload. How do you manage all this data? Does information overload affect your life? How about your business?

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