What do you usually do when you’re at a party and have no one to talk to? Or you walk in Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee and decide to stay inside to drink it? What do you do? That’s right, you take your phone to check Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Information technology has enabled people to create and consume huge flows of information, and be constantly available. The only question is, are we ready to handle this?
What does science have to say about digital overload?
A new report from ZenithOptimedia says that nowadays people spend no less that 8 hours a day consuming digital information, and a recent comScore study reported that over the past two years the time that US individuals spend on smartphones increased by 50%.
These numbers might not seem like a threat to humanity. However they should because we get pleasure from consuming new digital information, and accordingly – get addicted. Even receiving ordinary new pieces of information, like a text message or an email after refreshing your browser, triggers the brain to release dopamine.
Generally, our fondness to receiving new information isn’t something new. What matters is that the volume and access to new information have increased and overlapped our ability to consume it.
Does being 24-hour plugged in hurt or help humanity?
Both expert and op-ed pieces debate about how being plugged into technology around the clock affects humanity. One say that is hurtі, and the others say that it doesn’t. Both sides make valid points.
E.g., video producer Chris Milk believes that VR will be the great empathy-inducing machine of our time, allowing us to step into the shoes of others like never before.
But others argue that the new technologies cause social isolation – when people spend more time living a virtual reality that the real world; enjoy the virtual reality more that communicating with real people.
What trends do new technologies form?
In the 21st century, the exchange of ideas and knowledge is increasingly a marker of individual value and capital. Isn’t that true? We believe people who have many followers to be experts.
And so they are. We’ve come to the point, where everyone can express their opinion and become a thought leader. That on one hand is good because anyone in the world get an opportunity to be noticed, to bring changes, etc.
On the other hand, technologies make us available 24/7 and at some extent require us to be constantly plugged into the digital world. Are we ready for that?
How can you handle digital overload?
Ultimately, each of us has the freedom to decide how much time we should interact with the digital world and a load of information we want/able to consume.
But occasionally we don’t have this freedom and have to process the information that is given to us. So, to help you cope with digital overload, here are some points to focus at:
Have an everyday schedule
Wait, what? You don’t have a schedule. Then you are making a huge mistake.
A schedule is one of the ways of handling the informational load by sorting it and assigning a time limit for it.
So put everything you want to do in your calendar, Google Doc, Evernote or whatever you like to use, assign a time for each activity and set a time off, i.e. the time when you stop working and even thinking about work.
Insert the time to check email into your schedule
Email today is an important informational channel, so you can’t just ignore the time to spend on it. Always put a time you have to spend answering to emails in your schedule.
Let’s say, you dedicate 150 minutes a day to email. Break that time into smaller periods and set the exact time to check your email.
No matter what, stick to the schedule you created and only check email when you are “allowed” to. Not only you will increase productivity, but also your focus and self-control.
Admit it that not every email you receive is that important, to switch away from what you are doing. As well as there are emails that you don’t have to take care of today.
So, our advice is – once you receive an email ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it something that I have to take care of right now or later?
- What happens if I answer this email later/tomorrow?
- Is this email important for the work of my co-workers?
Use productivity apps to help you and your team
It might sound silly but technologies are made to help you cope with other technologies and data. I.e., help you overcome distractions or make things automatic.
E.g., an automatic time tracking software can free up some time for accountants and reduce the amount of data they have to proceed. And a focus boosting app helps to get the job done, etc.
Don’t check your phone before going to sleep
Any guesses why you can’t fall asleep for hours? Blame your smartphone for being a zombie in the morning.
Studies show that using any digital device in bed makes our brain “feel awake”. I.e., the light that comes from the screen of your phone/laptop does not allow your brain activity reduce, and so you can't relax and fall asleep.
So, avoid using digital devices in bed. Keep it free of digital pollution.
We can’t avoid using technologies. They’ve become an essential part of our lifestyle. But we can control and decide on the amount of information we want to consume.
So, consume responsibly.