We live in an era of information overload. This sometimes leads us to a state of chaos where we have too much going on in our brains than the brain can handle. This affects productivity by causing loss of focus, memory, and subsequently, our ability to think and act fast; yet, we get mentally exhausted before the day ends. We think we’re being productive through all this because a humble brag will often be heard such as, “I have so many things on my mind.” This is a sad illusion.
I am guilty of all this, and it’s not because I am a victim of the information excess humanity has ramped up in the past decade. I failed to take charge of the why and what I let into my brain, how it got there, and how to organize it. You may be guilty of that too, and perhaps information overload is ruining your productivity. Fortunately, I learned how to deal with brain overload, and now I can sum up these powerful strategies for you.
1. Dump Your Thoughts
Write down everything that exists in your head. Every worry, passing thought, task, and idea. One of the reasons you feel your brain is overloaded is because you want to hold onto each thought for fear of losing it, as it may be crucial. However, writing everything you’re thinking helps you externalize the information and relieve you from that burden. Keep that paper near you so that any fleeting thought that interrupts your workflow is noted.
2. Stop Overthinking by Scheduling Your Tasks
You may have your thoughts on paper, but you can’t stop thinking about how you’ll perform each task and at what time. For instance, I was thinking about how to make my volunteering team recognize the vision while struggling to fathom how I’d finish some projects, and all this made me overthink whether I was handling too much. But no matter how much I juggled these problems that needed solutions, I couldn’t find a fix. That’s when I decided to start scheduling when to THINK about solutions and figured out what needed to be done first. Scheduling helps organize thoughts and stay productive.
3. Focus on One Thing
Even when you’ve finished scheduling, the battle of thinking about more than one task may continue. However, stopping brain overload has one major rule: you can’t multitask. This is because multitasking is the reason why your brain is in agony in the first place. The best way to get a task out of your head is by getting it done, and the fastest way to do it is by giving it your undivided attention.
According to Daniel J. Levitin, a neuroscientist and author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload,” says, “Multitasking is a powerful and diabolical illusion.” What he means by this is, we’re only wasting time shifting our attention from one task to another, deceiving ourselves that we’re multitasking and are being productive. But the truth is, we’re not.
4. Make the Most Important Decisions First
When experiencing a brain overload, it’s easy to be stuck in analysis paralysis and indecisiveness. This usually comes with a tendency to start making decisions on low priority things so you can distract yourself. However, to avoid this, it’s smart to sleep after you plan the next day, starting with deciding the most important things first. This way, you’ll wake up knowing what you ought to do, and the cerebral resources will be available to tackle the mentally tasking decision.
5. Practice the Art of Limiting Distractions
In the eye-opening article on why the modern world is bad for your brain, Levitin explained comprehensively how social media and email distractions force information overload on our brains. I took the comparisons of today’s information pursuits to those of the old days and emulated limited information exposure.
I close off notifications from distracting apps like social media and even email, only to open them at particular timelines. When necessary, I turn on Do Not Disturb mode and call people in my free time. I realized great freedom when I shut off careless communication and too much information exposure inessential to my brain. My focus has heightened and distractions are the few that are out of my control. You can also limit distractions in your life to stop brain overload and maintain productivity.
6. Take a Break
Taking breaks has numerous advantages. It helps you think clearly, refresh cognitive functioning, reinforce learned information, and improve creativity among other things that make you productive. If you’re experiencing information overload, work on the tasks you’ve set and keep taking breaks to enhance your brain’s ability to handle what you ought to do. Before you start struggling with timing, check out this article to answer your question: How Often Should You Take Breaks from Work?
7. Skip and Cut off Irrelevant Tasks
One of the reasons we experience brain overload is because we stress ourselves doing too many things. We obsess over finishing tasks to ensure productivity and forget some tasks are productive on their own. If you’ve been putting something off for days on end, ask yourself: Is ir realy important to execute this task?? If not, cut it off from your life for good.
Preventing, Dealing With, and Stopping Brain Overload
While you have just learned how to smartly deal with brain overload, you discovered the tactics for preventing and stopping brain overload as well. Information overload is caused by the same things that worsen it. Therefore, it’s also prevented, dealt with, and stopped with the same strategies. Take notes and if you don’t know why you should to, check out four research-backed reasons taking notes improves productivity.
Do you experience brain overload? How do you deal with it? Comment in the section below and let’s all learn from each other.