Information overload?

Thought of the week

Throughout history - especially around times of major events - people have complained about information overload.

In our current world of Covid-19 this has never been more warranted. The need for every researcher, organisation, psychologist and so on to rapidly find answers and to put the pieces of the puzzle together has brought us more information than at any other point in time.  We are bombarded with death, discovery, politics, rhetoric, unanswered (and unanswerable) questions from every angle. Everyone wants to help in one way or another and we have more seminars, workshops, help-sheets, discounts, offers than we can imagine.

Social media, e-mail, webpages, mobile apps all spill data into our lives daily along with news, radio, and daily work meetings and updates. Managing information in daily life is a problem ordinarily and what we see barely represents a fraction of the sources of information available to us today. With Covid-19 this has increased exponentially.

We’re all learning a lot at a very fast pace at the moment. No wonder we are overwhelmed. But we don’t need every piece of advice or information to do what we have to do or live our lives. Nor do we need to add more pressure to our already stressful roles at work and home at this time.

So how can you cope with the huge volumes of new information being created, the lack of structure in receiving it, the contradictory items, and the pressure to keep up to date and to inform others?  Here are some tips and tools to help you ensure your stress levels remain manageable:

  • Sometimes keep it simple - turn off what you don’t need if only for a short time. Allow for moments of silence, reflection, mindfulness
  • Clear your mind. Take a moment to think, organise your mind, perhaps write a list of what you do/don’t need to review
  • Ensure you are getting everything through the same channel: it saves juggling numerous different sources
  • Ignore information when you can: read what you have to read, only from trusted sources, and anything that specifically interests you if you have time. Don’t feel guilty for not reading the rest
  • Set up a priority queue each day. You don’t have to read everything as it arrives; you can wait until you have time
  • Set Limits. Give yourself boundaries, a ‘two-minute’ rule, stick to the focus; if not, you can waste endless amounts of time
  • Be ruthless. Use email filters and only deal with what is important or relevant to you.
  • Involve others. Delegate responsibilities if you are part of a team; you don’t have to know everything, just know that someone does!
  • Skim to gain the main points. Most information contains key points; find these and go back for more if you need
  • Prepare in advance. Take the pressure off by being as ready as possible.

Remember that overloading is a choice. Feeling overwhelmed can cause us to freeze so nothing gets done which just increases tension. We have enough stress at the present time not to take on more. Help yourself to cope better by managing your information intake!

And to help you further we have decided to apply some basic rules to our approach to make it easier for you: to keep things simple, relevant, balanced and clear. To signpost to supporting information when necessary, to give straightforward guidance in usage, and ensuring you know what action, if appropriate, you need to take.

This has resulted in:

  • A daily Need to Know Now bulletin alerting you to anything new, or anything you need to know.
  • Clear, regularly updated COVID-19 pages on Need to know where all information you need to know is stored.
  • Sources of Help guide for looking after your own, and your staff’s, wellbeing (also on COVID-19 pages). All EEAST led health and wellbeing resource on one page.
  • A new, dynamic ‘Extra Sources of Help guide’ where you can find details of wellbeing support services that may be of help to you; we are reviewing everything sent to us, offering a short summary and a link for you to decide whether it is something you would like to take advantage of or not.

We would also like to know what works for you? Please send details of anything you have found useful to so we can add to the list.

Take care of yourself and each other.

Published 30th April 2020

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