You Might Be on Overload and Not Even Know it
In our fast-moving, ever changing world, determining how to focus your attention and energy can be a very challenging task. There are so many things clamoring for our attention and focus daily that one could easily struggle just to keep up with truly necessary information. So, what happens when all that information reaches a processing bottleneck? If you’re having trouble remembering things you wouldn’t normally forget, making decisions, managing your workflows, keeping your cool or maintaining relationships, is it at least possible you’re on overload?
(There are, of course legitimate medical and psychological reasons for that could be at play and you should always seek the guidance of a healthcare professional in such cases – this post is not, nor should it be construed as medical advice).
In the United States most of us have access to a vast number of over the air television channels, cable and satellite channels, social media, the internet itself as well as numerous dedicated news outlets that use all these platforms to deliver information continually. Furthermore, for those who work in technology driven environments that rely on real-time (or near real-time) information to interact with customers, clients, vendors our other companies, there is a completely unique set of information tools and resources used in just the execution of typical job functions. All this information can negatively impact our ability to focus on critical activities if we do not know how to (or choose not to) filter the input.
This phenomenon (being inundated with information) is not isolated to adults. Children and adolescents also face a constant barrage of information from numerous sources. We have smart devices (phones, tablets, watches, televisions and more) pushing updates to multiple social-media accounts and e-mail addresses. A cursory internet search for smartphone usage before getting out of bed reveals that at best, some of us and, at worst, most of us reach for our phones before doing anything else first thing in the morning. Ostensibly, we do this to keep aware of what’s going on in the world around us. However, the simple truth is, we are fed more information than we can process. So, what do you do when the combination of the sheer volume of information available, your work deliverables and life commitments collide and result in information overload? Simple… unplug…
Okay, so perhaps it’s easy, but it really is a simple concept. If you had an electrical overload in your house that kept tripping a breaker, you would unplug things until the load became low enough for your power to stay on. The possible result of not reducing the load is a catastrophic electrical fire. While your brain probably won’t catch fire, your quality of life and health could certainly suffer. So, your brain, incapable of processing every bit of information thrown at it could probably benefit from time away from the digital world. Let’s take a quick look at some things we can do to give ourselves the much-needed space from the info-onslaught we all need.
Leave work at work
If you are not on call or in a profession that requires 24/7 attention to the job, walk away at the end of the day. Your family, friends, brain and body will all thank you when you create appropriate work-life balance. My advice is this, once you walk out the front door of the office your employer no longer has access to you, your thoughts or your feelings. There are times when we must think about work activities outside of work but those should be the exception not the rule.
Create time for quiet
Contrary to what most of us say, we don’t find time. There are only 24 hours in a day and we choose to use that time in certain ways. To successfully unplug, you will need to create space in your schedule for quiet time. Why quiet time? Because having quiet time gives you space to think, breathe, meditate, pray or otherwise remove yourself from the fray before For some, commute time is quiet time. While I don’t necessarily recommend that (traffic jams aren’t great for de-stressing), it might be the only space in your schedule you have for this.
Design your spaces to be activity specific
Every room in a house has a name. Unfortunately, thanks to smart devices, every room has the potential to become a media room. What if you reserved the dining room (or eat-in kitchen) for eating, the bedroom for sleeping, the bathroom for… bathroom things and reserved the living room/family room (or home theater, if you have one) for television and browsing social media. If you have a home office, you could (and probably should) leave work there. If we use our spaces for there designated purposes, we might find that we spend more quality time together and more time living than consuming information,
Be intentional in your wind down
Preparing your mind and body for sleep is, in my opinion, a crucial activity. Often, this time becomes a catch-all for discussing important (frequently stressful) topics with our significant others, thinking about what we could have done differently in that meeting, over-analyzing conversations, worrying about our kids, thinking about bills to be paid and more. However, we can use this time to prepare the body (and mind) for self-repair and decompression. Things like a warm bath, soft lighting (think low-wattage, old-school incandescent), clean and comfortable bedding, white noise of soft music (if you must have noise) and a completely dark room for sleep time can be very beneficial when incorporated into a nightly ritual. One of the most important things you can do is remove the television from your bedroom (if you have one). This removes the additional temptation to fall asleep to the glowing box or engage your mind when it should be preparing for sleep.
These activities, when practiced regularly, might just give you back some of what you’ve been missing… You know, energy, focus, desire, passion… What’s more, when you give your body, mind and spirit a day to rest completely, you can start the next week afresh, ready to pursue your goals with vigor. Taking this time to engage in self-care will allow you to better focus. Focus allows us to accomplish more with less wasted energy and resources.
When all is said and done, we each must be as aware as possible of what our bodies tell us. Sleep deprivation, anxiety, irritability, health problems, etc. call all be exacerbated by not knowing when to unplug or how to detach ourselves in order to recover. You only get one body and one life – do yourself a favor and take time to recuperate.