As a chronic thinker and life-long learner, I crave information. As you probably understand from the content of this site, health and wellness are my passions. As such, I want to read, watch, live, and breathe everything I can on the subject. Ironically, I recently realized that my obsession with all that knowing is negatively affecting my health. I felt tired, stressed, and totally overwhelmed by the sea of information in which I was swimming. I knew I had to take action to simplify my life and clear out the informational clutter. Here are 6 tips I used that will allow you to reduce information overload too.
#1 Establish Separate Email Accounts
I have three email accounts: 1. For important business and daily contacts, 2. For personal accounts and online shopping receipts, and 3. For newsletters, sales offers, and educational information. Two of those accounts are hosted along with my websites in a paid web hosting account, the other is a free Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) account that I have had for decades and can’t seem to part with. Free email accounts are easy to come by through Gmail.com, Yahoo.com, and Outlook.com. Maintaining all three accounts has been an important tool in prioritizing and managing my emails. Last week I finally connected all three accounts to my desktop Microsoft Outlook application, which has really streamlined how I access the information.
#2 Declare Email Bankruptcy
While having three email accounts has been very helpful in keeping emails separated, I recently found myself with far too many unread messages. It was hard, but I decided to declare email bankruptcy. The collection of old newsletters and sales announcements, they got deleted in short order. At first I was nervous. What if they contain important information? What if the latest natural healing breakthrough is buried within those 100s (yes 100s!) of messages? It was a fear I had to allay with one simple thought – if it is important, I will encounter it again. After all, there is always Google. Hitting “Delete” was actually very freeing. If only handling all problems was that easy.
#3 Use Folders, Just Not TOO Many
Folders have been an invaluable tool in organizing emails and documents on my computer. However, there is such a thing as too many folders. If you don’t make main folders broad enough, you end up having far too many to scroll through before you find what you need. I have consolidated many of my main folders, creating very specific subfolders so that I can put information out of sight. This ensures that I can find it, but only when I really need it.
#4 Take the Time to Organize
Setting up folders appropriately and organizing information takes time. Often though it takes just a few seconds to title something or drag it into a folder. It is time well spent. I had a nasty habit of bookmarking virtually every web page I wanted to review at some point. Before I knew it, there were an unmanageable number of unsorted bookmarks hanging out in my Firefox Bookmarks Library. I finally systematically went through and renamed bookmark links so that I could find them easily, combining or deleting old folders, and establishing a safety net of very broad folders such as “To Read” (for interesting articles) and “To Watch” (for webinars or videos) which could house any of the items that weren’t that important. I also activated the “Added” field on the bookmarks menu which enabled me to quickly delete old bookmarks. [To do this go to Bookmarks – Show All Bookmarks- Then right-click on the gray bar at the top right – Check “Added”, then drag that column next to “Name” so you can quickly sort the bookmarks by the date they were added. Then, if you’re brave enough, simply delete all of the bookmarks that are out of date.]
#5 When in Doubt…
The adage for most clutter clearers is “when in doubt throw it out.” I may have just made that up, but it fits, right? Energy is blocked by clutter of all kinds – physical, emotional, electrical. It is important to keep your environment as clear of all junk as possible. Deleting files and throwing away or recycling anything that is no longer serving you is a helpful way to offer yourself greater peace and balance.
#6 Unplug EVERYTHING
I know you have heard this a hundred times, but you must unplug from all of your gadgets on a regular basis to give yourself time to recover from the constant assault of information. I have resisted getting a Smart Phone for several reason, the most important being I don’t need any more distractions in my life. I am already so tied to my laptop, that I know setting up boundaries around other gadgets is important for me. Chances are it is pretty important for you too. If you can’t completely disengage from you gadgets, sleep experts suggest at least turning off all screens 30 minutes before bedtime. I try to take that further by periodically taking hikes or simply avoiding the computer and television for large blocks of time (like a weekend away).
I must admit I don’t practice all of these tips ALL of the time. But, when I am feeling especially overwhelmed I know that one of these strategies is bound to help relieve some of the angst.
What do you do to avoid information overload?