Let me start by saying this: I love the Internet. It’s amazing how much information is available, how easily I can connect to others (even those who are hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away), and the sheer range of information is at my disposal. There is an incredible range of opportunities available online, and the Internet is powerful, powerful tool to doing almost anything you could want to do.  (Including spending time enjoying Yakezie member posts.)

But it is not without its downsides. That range of information, nearly the entirety of human knowledge from all of recorded history, is available online. With this level of information, it’s easier than ever to find yourself deluged with more information than you can handle. The Information Age we live in has brought with us its own troubles, including

Information Overload

Yup, the problem with having access to so much information is that it’s more than possible to find yourself completely overwhelmed by what you are taking in. Between computers, television, radio, notebooks, and cell phones (increasingly capable of doing almost everything those computers can do), to say nothing of older-fashioned options like books and magazines, it’s hard to find any time when you aren’t deluged with information of all types.

As a result, it’s increasingly common to find yourself simply overwhelmed by how much information you face each day. Trying to retain even a small portion of what you read and watch can leave you mentally drained, too tired to accomplish even the most basic tasks. It’s not a good place to be mentally, particularly when you find yourself with so much to do you barely think you’ll have time to complete it all (another frequent trait in the Information Age).

This information overload can lead to a cycle where you find yourself seeking information, absorb much more than you need (particularly when you get sidetracked and find yourself following other information leads), are overwhelmed, and stop to regain your focus only to discover that you didn’t get what you needed and have to spend even more time and energy searching for the data. Much as computers faced with too many programs open at the same time become slower and less able to function, we as humans are only able to do and learn so much in a given sitting before our brains need a break (trust me, I’ve experienced that need for a break many times myself).

Keeping Yourself From Being Overloaded

Now, I realize there aren’t very many good methods of completely avoiding all the information currently floating around out there; not too many people want to follow in the footsteps of Ted Kaczynski and live in a cabin out in the woods, completely isolated from the rest of humanity. But while we might need to retain access to information, we don’t need to suffer from information overload in the process. How can we do so? Why, by sticking with some of the following advice, of course:

Keep Your Sources of Information to a Minimum: It’s tempting to get information from everywhere possible, but trying to keep track of everything can be overwhelming. Instead, keep track of what you subscribe to, the websites you visit regularly, and the books you try to read; put too much on your plate, and it’s a sure way to find yourself overwhelmed. Find a relatively small number of websites, magazines, and other sources to follow, and resist the temptation to add more to your list (unless you are willing to cut out some of your existing sources to make some room). While you’re at it:

Don’t Feel the Need to Read Everything: I’ll admit, this is one of my biggest weaknesses; there’s something in my head that says that all the information I find should be read, considered, and given a response. But trying to do so in the era when nearly the whole of recorded history can be found in the course of mere minutes leaves you with far too much information and far too little time. Resist the urge to follow every single link that you see and read through every article (unless of course they’re Yakezie member articles; those are always worth reading).

Learn to Skim and Search Out the Important Information: You might have the habit of reading through everything you find when searching for a given subject in complete detail, looking for the best possible answer to your problem. While this might be the most thorough way to handle things, it’s far from the best; there’s far too many groups and individuals who know how to twist the search results for most subjects to display what they want, not necessarily what is best for your needs (which is why so much time has to be put into SEO work for the rest of us). Instead, learn to skim through the information provided, looking at the subjects covered and the manner in which they are handled, and find the most important data for your needs.  (There are plenty of tools available to help you cut down the amount of information you need to search to find what you seek.)

Set Goals and Limits: There’s no way you can cut off all information, even if you wanted to do so (and few people who would want that). Instead, you should goals for what you want to achieve before you expose yourself to information rich areas, either online or off. You should also limit the amount of time you devote to any given source of information; if you don’t set a distinct start and stop time, you’ll notice numerous times when you lose time while assumption of too much new information. Speaking of limits…

Know When to Give Yourself A Break From Information: You’re still going to be exposed to a lot of information, every time you go online, turn on the television, or even open a magazine. Instead of constantly trying to deal with the endless flow of information around you, you should try to have the occasional break from information built into your schedule. Include an hour or two each day in your schedule, or possibly a day each week, where you cut yourself off from all sources of information. Limit yourself to things like relaxing, spending times with your family, and if you can’t stay away from media entirely, stick with non-fiction stories and movies to keep your brain relaxed.   (It doesn’t hurt to take a hacksaw to the unwatched media you have accumulating while you, to boot.) When you resume your information-heavy routine, you’ll be all the fresher for it.

How do you keep yourself from being overloaded with information? How have you limited the amount of information you take in each day?