How to Survive Communication Overload – Part 2
With so much information coming at us from so many sources, it's easy to be overwhelmed. The Public Speaker has 3 more expert tips on how to weed through the communication you receive each day and focus on what’s important to you.
In the previous episode, How to Survive Communication Overload, Part 1, we talked about information and communication overload. You know that awful feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed out because you’ve got too many things coming at you from everywhere? Well, that experience isn’t just stressful, it also interferes with our ability to achieve our goals.
Check out Part 1 of this series on information overload before you continue. That’s where I provided the two main tips to help you survive communication onslaught. To review, these tips are:
#1 - Focus on credible sources of information to help reduce the amount but improve the quality of the information you find.
#2 - Choose when you consume information that is important to you.
Here are 3 more tips on surviving this fast-paced digital world:
Tip #3: Filter Based on Your Priorities
Part of managing communication overload is to be crystal clear on our priorities and have those priorities fresh and in the front of our minds. We need to always keep in mind both our big life priorities and daily task priorities because it’s really easy to lose sight of them in the moment.
For example, this past Friday, I messed up. I had planned Friday as a day off with my family. However, I was running late with a work task which forced me to have a new deadline for Friday. So I sacrificed one of my life priorities (not working on my scheduled vacations days) in order to be responsible and meet the deadline. I was upset with myself for allowing that to happen. I didn’t follow my stated priorities.
The key to avoiding this problem is to not only know your priorities, but to review them regularly and think before you act. Ask yourself: “Is this the best use of my time?” Also, manage your time in such a way that you don’t wind up with a tight deadline, and no time in which to complete it.
Related Content: How to Stop Procrastinating
Tip #4: Don’t Read Everything
I think one of the easiest and best ways to get back on track when you are feeling overwhelmed by communication is to reduce or possibly eliminate your exposure to it. Don’t allow yourself to take in any additional messages.
On the night before my planned vacation day, I could have set an automated email message that said I was out of the office on Friday and unavailable. I could have just not opened my email on Friday and not listened to my voice mail and simply addressed the task when I returned back to work. Instead, I felt the need to check my email and to respond. That was a mistake.
I know that completely tuning out is extremely difficult. So instead of going cold turkey, try tuning out at least some information. Perhaps consider only answering email two or three times a day, and no more. Don’t check your social media sites and turn your phone off while working on projects.
Make a list of your top 4 priority tasks, set a realistic deadline for each, and work on them one at a time until you finish them. For example: I set a mini-goal to complete this episode in the next hour and then record two other episodes.
For me, it’s extremely difficult to keep on task unless I shut down incoming messages. So while I’m working on a project, I turn off my phone and set my email to “work offline.” If you can’t go that far, at least turn off any alarms you have that alert you to new messages.
Tip #5: Limit Interruptions and Disruptions
However, email and social media aren’t the only culprits. In person interruptions also contribute to communication overload. For example: I’m in the middle of a task and my client calls to discuss background information for upcoming projects. Suddenly, I’m more focused on the client’s project than I am on the task at hand.
You know the feeling, just as you’re getting back to work, your boss stops in to give you another major assignment. As you fret over how you’re going to get everything done, it’s hard for your mind to settle and return your concentration to the current project. The point is, interruptions force us to spend extra time getting mentally back to the spot we were before the interruption.
Scheduling can really help with this. If you schedule blocks of time for specific activities, even routine activities like checking email, it will help keep you on track. If someone wants your time and attention, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that you are currently busy (even if it’s with only a routine task) and then tell them when you will be available. Also, it’s important to tell others when you are unavailable because it teaches them to respect your time.
Of course, none of these tips are earth shattering; they are just a reminder to help you avoid the stress the communication overload. Concentration and focus on only the important stuff is a well-known strategy of successful people.
Learn to recognize the symptoms of information overload. Avoid instant gratification. As soon as you start to feel overwhelmed, stop what you’re doing and review your priorities. Unplug yourself from all possible disruptions and put up your Do Not Disturb sign. Set a few short term priorities and complete them. Be mindful of how you ingest information and don’t turn the fire hose back on.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication; your success is my business.
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