Why Managing Information Overload Requires Boredom: Declare Your Independence Day

I just returned from a two-week vacation in which I unplugged.  Guess what?  This crazy planet filled with crazy people kept somersaulting all around the sky.  It didn’t stop. There’s no way to stop it.
And guess what else? I relaxed.  I even got a little bit bored.  And that was a good thing.
We tend to forget that the right kind of boredom is good for our creativity. Somehow we know that unstructured time is good for our kids, but aren’t we all children inside?  Might we not all benefit by getting off the treadmill of our daily routines?  Hamsters don’t get anywhere fast. Nor do we when we mindlessly use our precious moments. One of the biggest challenges we all face, at any age, is learning how to manage our time well.

The digital revolution has made time and information management more challenging than before.  We are in a state of information overload combined with constant interruptions.  Yet, guess what?
We can control the load and the interruptions. And we must! Already the average number of emails received by the typical professional exceeds 100/day. Combine this with social media, and the fact that it’s expected there will be 75 times as much data  in the world in 2020 as there was in 2010, and you can see we’re not going to do well if we continue managing data inputs in the same way as most of us do today.  As Chris Aylott writes in 3 Ways to Reduce Information Overload : “Unless you’re planning to be able to think 75 times faster in 2020, it’s time to start managing that data.”
On my vacation I discovered something amazing:  I don’t have to open and read every email for fear I’ll miss something.  Here’s what I did:
·        I deleted a ton of emails without even reading them.  These were the ones I receive that are always interesting.  They are blogs to which I subscribe.  Or discussion groups.  Or news services.  I always get great ideas, but… I get too many of them!
·        I deferred reading emails that looked personal or otherwise non-deletable.  I just decided they’d still be there when I returned.
·        I ignored Twitter and Pinterest and Facebook and LinkedIn.  Again, this is always interesting stuff.  But… it’s not essential to my survival.  The Twitter stream will no doubt pick up right where it left off.
·        I didn’t post on my blog.  Somehow you all survived too!
My Independence Day gift to you all is to suggest that, from time to time, you unplug.  Even if you’re not going on vacation, declare a mini-vacation from the internet. Take a walk and actually look at your surroundings.  Read a book for pure pleasure (and don’t feel guilty that it’s not a professional journal, blog or news source). Call up an old friend and have a nice long personal chat (not a quick text).
Channel the spirit of revolution. It’s good to remember that we’re humans and not hamsters.
What would happen if you used some of your interruption time to just sit and listen to your ownthoughts instead of someone else’s?

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  1. Love this! A much-needed reminder that it is just not possible to keep pace with the information flow as it speeds up – but that it IS possible to make choices (and be proactive and strategic) in how we respond.

  2. Thanks Julia! I appreciate your reading and commenting, and agree we need to always remind ourselves that we do have choices. We control the information flow; not vice-versa.

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