In a world of surfeit, we are unlikely to face a famine of knowledge any time soon. With data dripping from every pore, what matters is knowing what to do with it all, how to filter it effectively and how to determine how much we really need.
As an information junkie, I love discovering new knowledge especially when it’s relevant to my work in translating the findings of the neuroscience into practical tools for better thinking.
The problem is the original trickle of information I used to receive has turned into a daily torrent resulting in an overflowing in-box of the latest Google alerts, academic papers and newsletters. Eeeeek!
It’s impossible to read it all, so I end up deleting great swaths of potentially interesting “stuff” each week to avoid going completely bonkers. This is invariably accompanied by that FOMO (fear of missing out) moment.
It was the same problem when writing my first book Brain Fit. I found it difficult to finish because new information was continually becoming available that I felt warranted inclusion. I had to be advised by my editor that the book was already “enough” and could easily be revised at a later date before I was able to stop.
Whether you are a business owner, manager or busy professional, knowing your “enough” helps to define how much information you need to do your work well. If you can recognise your “enough” you can then help others to recognise theirs too.
To do that requires scheduling the time to press pause and reflect.
For me, it’s Friday afternoon when I check in to ask what did I accomplish this week? What remains undone or incomplete?
If the reflection is too much remains undone the temptation can be to play catch-up over the weekend. The problem here is that you end up working 7 days a week, stressed to the max and not feeling very good about the situation. Plus, you never really do catch up, so you are far better off advising yourself O.K, time to stop, recoup and refresh and then start again well on the next workday.
We are not designed to work continuously. It stifles imagination and creative thoughts. Working too hard for too long elevates stress levels that add to your cognitive load meaning you’re not thinking well at all. It’s the fast track to mental exhaustion and burnout.
It isn’t good for you, or your relationships.
We think more clearly and make better decisions when the amount of information we have to handle feels manageable.
That’s why as leaders, managers or solopreneurs putting in place some agreed rules and abiding by them is essential. Safety at work includes avoiding brain overload by stipulating what is “enough”.
This can include strategies such as:
1. Asking the question “Will this piece of information add value to my work, or is it a distraction or source of procrastination?”
2. Determining how much work really needs to be done, so you can turn off your technology sooner and press STOP.
3. Creating sources of information that have been filtered for relevance, summarised as appropriate and shared only with those who need access to it.
4. Choose to only sign up for that newsletter/journal/course if it’s of major significance to your work.
5. Ensure you have a number of interests and activities beyond work. You may love your work and area of interest but there is a bigger world out there waiting for you to play in and explore.
6. Undertake a regular cull of all information inputs – do I still need to receive this? Mmm, will there now be a mass unfollow of my newsletter? If so, I will be glad you are taking care of your brain health.
In the same way as supersizing our food portions isn’t good for us, drowning in excessive information is counterproductive to good thinking. Sticking to regular size portions and enjoying your information in moderation keeps your brain happy, your thinking clear and your mental performance high.