Discover more from Spark
Conquering Information Overload
Focussing, Filtering and The Fear Of Falling Behind
If you’re a leader who is used to cutting through the noise and getting business done, it can be difficult to accept that things are getting the better of you.
The pressure to be knowledgeable and stay up-to-date with information is high.
And the fear of falling behind can lead to overwhelm and stress, actually decreasing productivity, rather than improving it.
It’s a topic that almost inevitably arises with the clients I work with; no matter their level.
The sheer volume of information that business leaders need to sift through to find what is relevant can be exhausting and frustrating.
It wastes time and energy.
And more worryingly it creates the potential for missing information that actually is important.
Yet the reality is that you’re never going to be able to keep up with everything that you might like to. Emails, industry reports, social media messages, and articles you’ve bookmarked. Especially when they’re spread across multiple platforms and systems that make it difficult to access and organize.
Whilst the proliferation of apps and technology can help productivity, they can also be a contributor to overload.
Many of us have at least three devices connected to the internet and 60+ apps downloaded.
The amount of data generated every day is phenomenal. Over email alone, 333.2 billion emails are sent every day.
We’re producing and consuming more information and data than ever.
And our brains haven’t caught up with how to manage it.
It means that if your goal is to always have the latest insight at your fingertips, be able to effectively manage information, and avoid overwhelm, it will need intentional action as well as a degree of ruthlessness.
“A little like recovering addicts, senior executives must labor each day to keep themselves on track by applying timeless yet powerful guidelines: find time to focus, filter out the unimportant, forget about work every now and then.”
The challenge is that for strategic leaders, intentionally designing a system that works in the way your mind does, is unlikely to be urgent/interesting/exciting enough to make it to the top of your to-do list.
So, if you aspire to stay well informed on the latest in your business, but not let the constant flow of intel take over, here are four short steps to begin:
If you find this piece thought-provoking and useful, click on the 💜 below.
Prioritise: As a starting point get clear on what matters the most to you. Because you don’t need to be sighted on everything that happens in your business. Define what you need to know, how much you need to know, and why.
Develop a strategy for filtering information that comes to you and push back information that could be best held by others.
You can do this during a week to help you identify what you really need. When you receive something new, ask yourself:
Is this information useful to you or simply interesting?
Do you personally have something to contribute?
What value does it provide different from what you get elsewhere?
Practice: Use your priorities to help you day-to-day. Keep a note of your three biggest priorities by your desk perhaps and use them to filter for pieces of information you want to digest, as one client of mine does. Or you may develop a set of principles that you use to guide you.
When do you most need to be reminded of your biggest priorities?
What is one small thing you can do today that would remind you in the days ahead?
What will you do to ensure those around you are clear on them too?
Systematise: Building a great support team is critical for leaders; but even more critical is that you learn to work effectively with them.
A common challenge for new leaders is the adjustment to having an executive team review their emails, determine access, and filter information.
Fear of missing something critical can lead to stressed working relationships and an eventual weakening of trust.
Think about those around you:
How clear are they on what you will and won’t need to see?
What do they need from you to enable them to do this effectively?
What two tweaks could you make to enhance that today?
Discipline. It can be frustrating to need to sift through the irrelevant so that you can quickly and easily access the information you do actually need.
But even if you have a support team around you, you’ll need the self-discipline to work together and review and respond to what you receive.
Where would you place yourself on the spectrum below?
What level of discipline do you need to design and enact an effective system?
What can you learn from experiences where you have shown great discipline?
Where do you get in your own way?
If you’ve enjoyed this week’s issue please hit the 🤍 button below. Meantime if you haven’t already, you can subscribe to receive the next issue straight to your inbox.