Information Overload

Consider this: the same brain that was used 200 years ago to drive a horse and cart is now flying a jumbo jet. The same brain that went out into the field to harvest the crops, is now using computer technology. Today our brains are processing more information in a week than than they did in a lifetime 200 years ago. The world has changed, but have we?

Moore’s Law
In the 1950s “Moore’s Law” stated that computing power would double every two years. It has done so, and more, since then. What this has meant for us is that we have more and more information to deal with. Computers now exist not just in our watches, phones, tablets and desk tops, they are in our cars, heating systems, vacuum cleaners and virtually every appliance in our house. With this surge of information comes information overload. Just how much can we deal with?

Brains evolve slowly
We are continually told that we only use ten percent of our brains capacity and that we should be multi tasking like it is a breeze. The reality is that we have chosen to make our lives much more complex than they should or need to be. We have all done and we all continue to do it. With the amount of information that we take on each day we create more and more problems for ourselves because we keep needing to make more decisions. We believe that we need to know and perhaps we do not. It is good to be informed about life and the news but we do not have to be inundated. In the end it is easy to just become confused by it all.

Messages and emails
If you consider the amount of emails and messages that we all get. Often the message comes from some one who could have simply told you what they wanted you to know but they are now in the habit of sending it as a message. They might be in the same office and perhaps a generation ago they would have called across the office to keep you informed. The fact that they now send a message is often described as a ‘paper trail’ so that we can now show and prove what we have done and what we are doing. Seems strange that we now have a stress level that comes about the feeling that we need to cover our own backs to keep our selves safe.

Inbox full
When I take time out for a weeks holiday I often come back to an inbox with hundreds of messages waiting for me, most of which needs to be binned. The cost in business and organisations of the need to email is colossal, and often unnecessary.

Short term memory loss
The funny think is that when we are getting red eyes, tired and irritable we often think that we are doing a good job and being productive. In the main we are not. When we have to deal with so much information we become stuck like a rabbit caught in the headlights. We become inert unsure of what action to take. The other thing is that we can only hold so much information in our short term memory before we begin to lose it and appear forgetful. It is estimated that when we are in over load that we could be loosing over 60% of the information that we are trying to retain.

We may appear to others to be losing the plot, or be developing dementia, we may even believe that ourselves. Many people will say to me “I think I am going bonkers. I go up the stairs to get something and then when I get there I cannot remember why I came up here. I than have to go back down stairs to remember and then climb the stairs a second time”.

Accepting that various medications, or raging hormones will effect our ability to remember the major cause of memory loss is anxiety, stress and overload. One thing to remember is that when a lot of information is coming at you, one bit after another, it can be hard to retain every piece of information.

How do you know when enough becomes too much?
Your mind-brain works like your computer. You have an inbox, this is your short term memory. You have a filter that decides ‘is this relevant to me?’ When it decides that it is relevant it passes the information over into storage, this is your long term memory. The problem is that your short term memory can only hold a limited amount of information, around seven items. If these are not processed and passed to our long term memory they begin to fall out and are lost. You have already taken in too much information and the system has been overloaded.

You might feel that it is easy for me to suggest this and that the needs and requirements of your life make this idea impossible. So lets have a look at it.

How can you simplify your life both at work and at home to reduce the amount of decisions that you need to make everyday? This may require planning and reorganisation but we are talking about long term gain here and your ongoing wellbeing.

There are many schools of psychology that encourage you to minimise your possessions and make your life easier and less cluttered. Many philosophies would say that if you have not used something for a year then you don’t need it so get rid of it. When you declutter your home or your desk you declutter your mind and make it more likely that you will remember things and de-stress your mind and emotions.

Steps one, two and three
Go to the Live In The Present book and complete the first three steps and create more space and less stress in your mind, brain, emotions and body

Get some mindfulness in your life. Meditate, relax do some yoga, exercise, walk.

Go native
Try having time when you go off line. No phone, no mobile, no internet, no TV, no radio, just you. Give it a go and see what it is like to simply be and not do. Create a space where nobody wants anything and nobody needs anything and simply relax.

Create distance between you and stressors
Once you have cleared your head keep it clear. Distance your self from stressful people and stressful situations. Limit the amount of news that you listen to.

Over all do an audit of where your life is up to and, if you need to, change it.

Take care, be happy and enjoy some under load for a change.

Sean x

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