How I’m Learning to Navigate Information Overload

I was going crazy with so much content everywhere

a laptop surrounded by books
Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

New Tab, Search. Right-click, open in New Tab. Open New Tab…Open New Tab…

And then before you know it, you have 15 new tabs open and you have no idea where to begin and what to read. Either you spend the next 3 hours reading everything you’ve opened or you get frustrated and close them all.

If you’re the former, I salute you. If you’re the latter (like me), then you lose it all.

While none of this new, what is different is that we’re spending more & more time on our computers because there’s more and more content to sift through out there. Five years ago, if you wanted to look up say, Star Wars, you’d get 10 websites. Now you’d probably get 50 sites+ FB posts + Twitter + Medium Articles, not to mention Pinterest that sort of aggregates all of this. (I know the statistics is not accurate, but you get the idea.)

And now, with all this content, how do you know which is worth reading and which is not. You really can’t, until you actually read the content through.

There’s So Much to Read yet, So Little Time

Right, but that’s not all we have read.

Most of us have a ton of reading to do at work — whether it’s emails, reports, documents and if you’re in the finance industry, you know that brevity is not in anyone’s dictionary. Finance people love using 10 words when 4 will do, and the additional 6 have to be super complicated, & smart-sounding.

So what do you do? How do sort through all of this without feeling lost and without feeling overwhelmed?

Well, I don’t have a perfect answer because I’m still learning as well. But, I can say that I have some sort of system that’s working.

Stockpile Your Resources

There’s no way you can read 15 articles in one go. I mean sure you can, but you’ll end up zoning out. So the best thing to do is save the websites for a later a time. Pocket is a helpful app to save links. I personally just use Google Keep or the Apple Notes function and then read them later.

I’ve also started to use a running note of things to research. So when I’m reading an article and there’s something I want to look up, I don’t open a new tab but instead make a note of it. This way I don’t get distracted, jumping from site to site, not ever finishing one.

Don’t Turn Off Your Phone

I know everyone says you need fewer distractions to focus and absorb what you read. You know what? I can’t turn off my phone. But, what I have trained myself to do, is ignore all the notifications. With time and practice, I’ve gotten better at it. But, shutting off my phone will just lead to more panic.

You don’t need to answer every notification that pops up on your phone. Look at it, and if it’s not your house on fire, wait till later to answer. Continue with your reading.

To thine own self be true

I used to be completely a paper person. Printing everything that was more than two pages. (I know, I know, that’s so bad for the environment!) But, at some point you realize that you need to go digital because of the sheer volume.

Paper is still my best friend though, and I use it to take notes. So even if I’m reading something online and I want to remember it, I write it down on paper. Writing things down helps enormously with retaining information. But, it doesn’t always have to be paper; you could use Google Docs or Keep as well.

Just remember that taking notes doesn’t mean you copy down pages of information. A few bullet points with highlights should be enough.

Taking notes has always worked for me. Find out what works for you and do that.

There’s no easy way to keep track of all the content. We’re blessed to be living in a time when we have too much information instead of too little. Yet, with too many choices also comes the burden of sifting through them and using clever tactics to get through it all. Let’s take it one article at a time….

“Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.” — Mitch Kapor

Mother, consultant, banker | Love writing, coffee, reading and rain... not necessarily in that order | Always on the Self-Improvement Bandwagon

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