The Secret to Simplifying Your Life? Learning How to Manage Information Overload

A few weeks ago I wrote about simplifying our lives and that article got a lot of interest. That interest made me curious. What actually complicates our lives?

We put out a small survey with my team and asked our peers--entrepreneurs, designers, working moms, leadership coaches--the #1 thing that complicates their life. And what they do about it.

It turns out that the biggest culprit still is information overload. One of the survey responders called this, "drinking from a firehose."

Here are their tips for managing seemingly endless information flow and digital distraction, with some additions from me. And not to overload you more, I deliberately kept it short.

1. Turn it off

Deactivate Facebook. Turn off pesky notifications. Quit all programs except the one you're using. Use the app SelfControl which blocks your access to sites of your choice for time blocks you set up. Have windows of time where you're 100 percent off technology.

2. Reverse the direction of information

Instead of letting all and every piece of information come at you, choose to go after information of your choice. Whether it is for work or life, curate your own information deliberately and with care.

3. Look for inspiration in the real world

Go to a museum. Take a walk with a friend. Attend a workshop. Watch a documentary. Read a book. Then use them as jumping off points to explore things that interest you.

4. Put limits

Check and answer email in batches and schedule these in your calendar. Have only one professional (i.e. LinkedIn) and one social (i.e. Facebook) network. Clock your time on both. Know not to answer every email (i.e. all emails on which you're CC'ed). Select a number that is manageable for your photo albums (i.e. 100/month) and stick to that (this from a professional photographer).

5. Unsubscribe

Set a separate mailbox for mails that come with an unsubscribe option. Unsubscribe from all except 5 that bring you joy (a la Mari Kondo).

6. Separate work and life

Have a different computer for work and home. Don't check Facebook at work. Ditto for LinkedIn at home. Leave your phone in another room when you're having dinner with your family.

7. Go back to paper

Get the paper edition of your newspaper. Use a notebook for your notes. Create a printed photo album. Buy paperbacks.

Thank you to everyone who inspired me by replying to our Design the Life You Love survey.

If you have tools and tips to manage information overload, please send them in. We can always use more help.

Design the Life and Work You Love!