How to Escape Information Overwhelm

By: Eddie Archer
Navigating the virtual world and its innumerous content options can leave us feeling overwhelmed. Edvardo Archer, a local licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, shares practical steps on how we can stay in charge of our digital consumption and declutter our minds.

“If something is a tool, it genuinely is just sitting there, waiting patiently. If something is not a tool it’s demanding things from you. It’s seducing you, it’s manipulating you, it wants things from you.” – Tristan Harris, co-founder of Centre for Humane Technology

The internet is made up of “tools” that are supposed to make life easier but, in truth, they overwhelm us. Unread emails, social media feeds, unread newsletters, new Youtube videos, podcasts cued up, Kindle books purchased but left unopened. Frankly, it is suffocating.

But how do we escape the overwhelm?

Recently, I led 300+ attendees of the Second Brain Summit through a discussion on how we can accomplish this. It starts with this concept: Tame the Buffet.

Tame the Buffet

An intensely American institution is the buffet restaurant. You walk in and are greeted by isles of heated containers filled to the brim with your favorite foods – food as far as the eye can see, from different cultures and cuisines, prepared in various ways. There is no lack of options.
If something is not a tool it’s demanding things from you.
From a consumption standpoint, going to a buffet is incredibly self-defeating. Any initial hope to consume everything will be dashed by your physical inability to take in everything. The buffet is synonymous to online information overload.

There are no limits to how much you can consume online, but if you try to consume everything, you are guaranteed to be disappointed. There is, however, a way to win this game. You must tame the buffet by doing the following:

  1. Scan, Don’t Consume
  2. Follow What Resonates
  3. Create Your Own Algorithm

Scan, Don’t Consume

Your best option is to quickly walk through the buffet isles and take a mental note of what is in each section. Imagine a person pulling up a chair to one of the buffet isles and starting to eat right out of the container. That is a shortcut to getting overwhelmed.

Learn to scan instead of consuming immediately. Examples:

  1. Emails – quickly scan sender, subject, and preview before you decide which ones you will open.
  2. Newsletters/Articles – quickly scan the title, subsections, and bullet points.
  3. YouTube – scan titles and thumbnails before jumping into the first recommended video.

Put control back into your hands. You drive how you will engage the content.

Consume What Resonates

Don’t just eat any old garbage because it’s available. Start with what resonates! Delete, block, and unsubscribe from anything that no longer interests you. If it sparks no joy . . . it goes.

“When something resonates with us, it is our emotion-based, intuitive mind telling us it is interesting before our logical mind can explain why” – Tiago Forte, Building a Second Brain

To properly navigate the overwhelm of online content, you must follow your heart. You are going to be more satisfied by riding your streams of interest rather than chasing the elusive feeling of “enough” content.

Create Your Own Algorithm

I am a huge proponent of “read-later” apps. These are applications that allow you to save online content for later consumption.

I am currently using Reader, but I’ve also used other apps like Instapapter and Pocket.

Here is the rule I give myself: I can consume any information I want, BUT I can only consume it within my read-later app. This allows me to ride the biochemical and emotional highs of the discovery process without cutting it off by going deep into an article too early.

My read-later app is my personal feed of the most fascinating articles, videos, tweets, and newsletters that is unmatched by the Google algorithm. I’ve effectively created a space that resonates with me and leaves me satisfied every time. I only need to save interesting things to my read-later app.

Tame the Buffet
  1. Scan, Don’t Consume
  2. Follow What Resonates
  3. Create Your Own Algorithm

This is how you can escape the information overwhelm of the internet!

 
 
Edvardo (Eddie) Archer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist that practices out of Fort Lauderdale, FL. He is passionate about building bridges that allow families and individuals to thrive and not be bullied by their circumstances. Eddie has served as a guest speaker at various CCA student and parent events. You can learn more about him and the work he does in the community both in person and virtually at APFamilyCounseling.com.
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