Do you get things done?
How often do you start a task and just work on it, without any interruption?
Or are you rather facing difficulties concentrating?
If you are fortunate enough to be in the first group and get things done- congratulations. You might want to share your recipe for your success formula with all of us.
If you are in the second group, welcome to the club.
Dr.Beat Buehlmann, the general Manager Europe of Evernotes, has formed the expression of the triple overload problem.
1. Data overload
2. Communication overload
3. Cognitive overload
Let’s start with the data and how better than with dates.
1900 the doubling of the knowledge worldwide took about a century
1950 25 years
2000 it had already decreased to 1 single year
and now 2019-drum rolls- it takes about 1 day to double the knowledge worldwide.
An idea how that will look like in 2030?
In many people this virtually inexhaustible amount of information evokes fear.
Fear of failure, of inferiority, of not being good enough.
Let´s have a look at the second overload, communication.
All the peeps and pings
Emails, messages on social media, team chats, WhatsApp, newsletters, appointments, pay TV, colleagues with a complaint, assistant reminds you about a due file, partner calls with a question about tonight’s plans-
It´s a miracle that we find time to breath, right?
Yesterday I went to a restaurant with a friend. Looking around me I was astonished and shocked at the same time how many people were sitting in front of a real person, but kept communicating with someone far away.
For some people it is hard to accept that they cannot be connected to everyone at the same time. This tends to create the fear of missing out on something, whatever you do.
Last but not least the cognitive overload. This term was already mentioned 1980 by John Sweller. The older one among us, like me, might recall, that there was no internet at that time yet. Nonetheless, obviously the term already played a role.
I´m the master of self-interruption, caused by cognitive overload, and I´m obviously not alone with it. Surprisingly this happens even more frequently than an interruption from the outside!
Laura Dabbish studied the pattern of self-interruption. If you have experienced an external distraction in the last hour, there is a very high likelihood, that you might condition yourself for a self-interruption in the next hour.
How long do you think it takes to gain back your concentration after an interruption?
23 full minutes! A lot of wasted time, just to check your Facebook account, isn’t it?
You might think:
Sure, good to know more about the three overloads, but without any solutions it´s pretty pointless, right?
Let´s start with general rules:
1. Don’t mistreat your brain. You only have one and the spare part warehouse has not stocked up -
2. Awareness is always the first step to change for the better.
Awareness means, that your attention focusses onto a more localized aspect.
Whenever you observe, that you are interrupted or interrupting yourself, try to identify the causes. Do you see a pattern? For example, do you check your email and messages every time is beeps?
One possible solution:
Mute your phone and computer and limit visuals such as pop-ups and notifications. It’s better to check your inbox intermittently; twice a day or, if it´s vital for your job, every 30 minutes.
Tell people a certain time you´re available for meetings or if this is difficult, a `concentration-time-window´.
you need without any external interruptions.
Your brain can usually handle 10 pieces of short-term memory at once. So, keep it simple.
When you feel that you become a victim of information pollution, I love the expression, come down. You cannot handle it all and nobody expects you to. Ideally filter out the 4-6, max. 10 most valuable pieces of information and work with it.
Stop multitasking! It´s a myth and doesn´t exist. Stop juggling two or more tasks at the same time and you´ll achieve better results.
And finally: Indulge yourself with some recovery time. Give your stress hormones a break.
In order to effectively regulate your mental load, a break is supposed to be a change from the task. If you are staring at a screen all day, move your body or interact with others. If you are surrounded by people go for a walk, read a good book or listen to calming music.
Don´t accept to be overloaded, neither by yourself nor others. Listen to your needs, change habits that are not good for you and learn to filter the important factors.
Or to say it by the words of Clay Shirky:
`It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure. ´
Stay mentally healthy and fit for much more modern life to come!