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.

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #160

by Lisa B. Marshall

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.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.