Drowning in Over Information? Here are 12 Strategies to Keep You Afloat.

Book Review

surviving-information-overload-kevin-a-millerTitle: Surviving Information Overload
Author: ©Kevin A Miller
Publisher: Zondervan, 2004

Written well before the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other plethora of the web’s social networks, the issues highly and effectively addressed by Dr Kevin A. Miller are as relevant today as when the book was first published. Fortunate as we are to be living in a sea of abundance of information, unfortunately, for the vast majority of the populace over information is a curse rather than a blessing.

How then do we profit from this ocean of overabundance instead of getting drowned in it? Dr Kevin A. Miller offer useful and highly practical ideas on how one can float and effectively navigate, survive and flourish in this ocean of super abundance.

In the book, author Dr Kevin pointed out the signs of information overload, why we have information overload and suggested strategies for coping and thriving.

What are these signs?
Are you constantly buffeted by the feeling that your life is getting overcomplicated? Inundated by information gadgets that promised simpler and easier lives but came with manual with hundreds of pages that you find no time to read? Have you ever felt that your productivity and marketability are declining in spite of the countless meetings, seminars and training workshops? Either compelled or by compulsion, are you jumping from one seminar to another meeting and finding no time to adequately put to use what you have learnt from any of these seemingly unending streams of information? Welcome to the planet of Over Information.

Overwhelmed? Why?
According to the author, ever more massive throve of information are being gathered and disseminated through more and more channels each year. Unfortunately, most of the available information are in incomprehensible and in badly presented formats. Computing power and information storage capacity are ever increasing and getting more compact and portable. Unfortunately, as the author points out, “Our minds don’t operate like computers.” Even though, information technology exposes us to more information through many channels, the flip side is that, “Unlike in most other things, when it comes to information, more is not necessarily better. Indeed, too much information coming too fast, can make us sick.” Without a proper strategy, most of the information technology tools, when not properly used easily become double edged Weapons of Mass Distraction (WMD) – a la Dr Os Guinness.

What are the strategies for coping?
The key is to realize that it is neither possible nor worthwhile for you to know or keep up with everything. So, how do you identify those things you need to know and those you can safely ignore? The author provided guidelines on how you can:

  • Find the information you need when you need it.
  • Clear the clutter out of your life and
  • Effectively create space and time to focus and think.

Here are some of the guidelines:

  1. Find someone or a more knowledgeable source that you can look up quickly.
  2. Narrow the subjects you study to what you need to answer those who depend on you.
  3. Focus your quest for knowledge and information on your areas of strength. Build on your strengths instead of shoring up your weaknesses.
  4. Do not neglect areas and subjects that though seemingly of no immediate practical benefits, nevertheless, they stimulate your imagination, broaden your understanding, and deepen your empathy.
  5. Cultivate the habit of capturing and storing good ideas in a format that you can easily retrieve for use when needed.
  1. If you do not have the time and desire to read the contents of an entire book, find a way to capture and use the key ideas.
  2. Always ask the question, “So what?” That is the key for turning information into action. How can I apply what I’m learning? How can a decision be made, an action taken, a matter closed?
  3. Perform an information audit in terms of source, frequency, time, value and usefulness. Is there is a quicker way of getting the information you need?

An information audit will show you where you’re overloading on information and whether the information is profitable or not.

~ The Effective Executive.

  1. Your life is influenced by your thoughts, it is your responsibility to control the information you receive. You have a responsibility to set limits. Cultivate the discipline of saying no to constantly answering emails, unsubscribing to certain publications, and admitting that there are many things you don’t know which you don’t need to know and consequently don’t have the time to find out.
  2. It saves time to not be the first to know something. Change your goal from knowing something before anyone else to knowing what you need to know when you need to.
  3. You don’t have to be 100% certain of outcomes before you make decisions. That is s luxury no one can afford. Realize that it is better to make a decision than to stand frozen by information overload. If you make a decision and it proves to be wrong, you’ll soon know it and can adjust accordingly.

By implementing even a few changes, you can save amazing amounts of time.

Transformation is less about what you decide to do and more about what you decide not to do.—Eirik Olsen

You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.
 —Annie Dillard

Wisdom has always been in short supply, and wisdom builds from very basic principles, not generally from mountains of information.

All quotations and brief excepts are from the book:
Title: Surviving Information Overload
Author: ©Kevin A Miller
Publisher: Zondervan, 2004

All the ideas expressed here and any errors therein are mine. Please consult the book for more information on this subject.