Help! I’m addicted to information (a.k.a. information overload)
Hi, my name is Veronika, and I’m an information addict. Or, a recovering one…
I love information. I love info-graphics. I always wanted to illustrate such things, but my love of subtle colours and the messy painting process didn’t match up with the info-world. So instead, I was constantly learning new information. “We learn until we die” I said way too many times. I was addicted to reading new stuff. More and more, because it felt like it was never enough. “If I read some more on this topic, I’ll know a lot more!”, another illusion. And after gaining so much information, there was always a period of overwhelm.
It was a vicious cycle of getting information – getting more information – getting a whole lot of information – feeling overwhelmed – shutting all information out – getting jittery and feeling like “if I could just find the right information” – getting fired up about new information – restart circle. Over and over again. We are truly creatures of habit…
And then I broke the vicious cycle. How? Well, it was not as simple as it sounds. First, I had to realise that I had a problem. It hit me in the face when I felt overwhelmed right around the time where I had to pull everything together for our annual tax report. I was mentally dead. I just couldn’t think. But I had to get papers and all our administration together on time. There was no excuse. And I made a mistake… Me, the one who is always careful, always reading the manual (sometimes twice) to make sure I’m doing the right thing… I made a mistake on a tax report! The major shock of that mistake left a burning feeling inside of me. “I’m doing something wrong here.”
The realisation hit me hard. And I became aware of my problem. I spotted it, when the cycle started again. I watched it carefully. Then I paused. The moment I paused to take it all in, the problem became obvious: always consuming information, never taking action. See, that’s the problem with information addiction. You get the high from reading something new, from getting a new idea. It feels like you’re progressing in your life. But in reality, you are staying at the same spot. Just like you can read the 100 best books on painting, if you don’t pick up the brush, you’ll never get better. I realised that if I wanted to actually learn and get ahead, I will have to start implementing the things I’ve learned. I had to start taking action. And that meant limiting the amount of information that I was taking in.
Now, it sounds easier said than done… I cut out things that didn’t feel like priority and I set a focus on what I wanted to improve at that moment. That meant cutting out random lifestyle newsletters and “7 best practices”-kind of stuff. And it meant putting my phone on the shelf and not touching it throughout the day. I thought if someone really needed me asap, they’d call. I started with “cleaning out” my inbox and bookmarks.
Then the harder stuff came: actually taking action. I was hesitant about this. “But what if this one won’t work? Maybe I should just make sure that I’ll find the best information, otherwise I’ll be wasting my time doing this.” Sounds legit? It’s not! Of course, you shouldn’t just start implementing any advice you find on the internet. I used common sense and my gut feeling (not my info-addicted voice in my head ;)) I started to take action, one shaky footstep at the time. My steps became a little better and stronger over time. And I started to feel okay with letting some ideas go if they didn’t work and trying out something else and iterating. I realised that it’s an ongoing process of learning and action-taking. And with more action and less information consumption, I have more time, energy and attention to give to my family and my painting and writing practices. I’m more productive, than ever! Win-win-win!
So what are the action steps if you’re in an information overload?
- Become aware of your problem.
- Watch yourself, your thoughts, your excuses. Be honest with yourself!
- Question your beliefs about learning and “just a little more information”
- Reduce information intake
- Commit to taking action
- Start with something small to act on
- Check in with your actions
- Iterate or abandon practices that don’t work out
- Be patient with yourself!
That last one is very important! And remember, that just like all good things, this also takes time.
Any thoughts, questions, comments? I love connecting to like-minded people, so let me know.