The keys to a calmer life include becoming the master of information, not its servant

How much time do you waste each day dealing with e-mails or instant messages, catching up on RSS feeds, or handling needless telephone calls? Would you like much of that time freed for other things? It’s possible—provided you stand firm on a few vital points.

When people complain of information overload they’re admitting that they have become the servant of their communication, not its master.

Data is infinite, for all practical purposes. However much you have, there will always be more. However much you process, more will arise to re-stock your queue.

It’s worth thinking about all that data. How much is really necessary? How much is there in your in-basket because that’s the way it has always been? How much do you absorb and understand—truthfully? How much is accumulated for the age-old purpose known as CYA (cover your ass)?

And how much time is spent communicating because it is much more interesting and enjoyable that the rest of your job?

How can you get back to a sensible level of information gathering and regain control over your time?

  • Stop assuming needless obligations. Just because messages are waiting, you do not have to read them now—or ever. If people send you messages unasked, delays in answering aren’t your problem.
  • Take charge of all means of communication. Use what you need and discard the rest. Too much information is as bad as too little. It swamps your mind and prevents you seeing the truth clearly.
  • Establish rational priorities and stick to them. It’s so tempting to keep adjusting as more and more “demands” arrive. But unless something fundamental has changed, there’s no call to change what you decided earlier was most important.
  • Be firm and courageous. Much of the reasoning behind people’s inability to stop jumping to read every message as it arrives is really based on fear: the fear that the new message may be something bad, that it may call attention to some mistake, that it may be “something important.” Fear is never a sound basis for setting priorities.
  • Learn to say “no” more often. If you’re a pushover, people will continue to impose on you, valuing their own time much more highly than yours.
  • Reading RSS feeds is a choice, not a duty. If it takes too much time, don’t do it. Always limit the time spent on it.
  • Disconnect for long periods. You are employed to do specific work and that must always be your first priority. You aren’t there to pander to people who expect instant answers to trivial questions,. Let them wait or ignore them altogether.
  • Notice any tendency to addiction. Why do people become addicted to being instantly available? My guess is because it’s far more interesting than their actual work. in fact, it’s an excuse not to do what they’re paid for. If you notice signs of addiction in yourself, think about what it’s telling you. If answering e-mails, playing with IMs, and reading RSS feeds are more interesting than your real work, it’s high time you considered getting a job that really does claim your attention.

Distractions of all kinds are amongst the most potent sources of workplace stress and loss of effectiveness. When communication itself becomes a distraction, it’s high time to shut most of it down.

(6 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
 Loading …

Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Popularity: 62% [?]