Daily life can feel like a mess because of information overload.
Almost 90% of the data in the world has been generated in the last few years. That is roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes (1 with 18 zeros after it).
For functional people that translated to so many HD movies on the web, that you would need 47 million years to watch them all. There are over 1.8 billion websites out there, and on average 571 new ones are created every minute. That’s how much data we’ve generated.
If in the 1970s an average person was introduced to just 500 advertisements, nowadays, each of us, depending on our profession, location and time spent on the Internet, is exposed to almost 10,000 carefully crafted messages.
But is our brain capable of processing all this information or is it lost in the infochaos?
If we dive deeper into science to find the answer, we’ll discover that our brains contain billions of neurons that store our memories by linking together. During our lifetime each of us creates around 100 trillion neuron links. In comparison, the number of stars in our galaxy is 1000 times less. Although our brain is capable of storing even more data ( equivalent to 2.5 petabytes or 300 years of video recording), our brains haven’t evolved enough to be able to process that much of daily information.
The evolution of a human brain happened in a simpler world than nowadays with far less information chaos happening. The processing capacity of the conscious mind has been estimated at 120 bits per second. With such restrictions, our attentional filters easily become overwhelmed and overall information processing tires us.
Neurons happen to be living cells that need oxygen and glucose to survive. So whenever we make them “work hard” we feel exhausted. Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like where you left your passport, what you want to eat for lunch, or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.
Add to that strategic decision-making processes, both in life and business, and all of a sudden you’re out of energy.
So what should we do to prevent our brains from getting caught in the vicious cycle of information chaos? Let’s take a look at the solutions of information management experts.
Change the way you take in information. We always like to point out the importance and usefulness of visualizations in helping to get a message across. Well, it turns out they have another use, too, as they can help to reduce the stress from this information overload.
Put a time limit on information gathering.
Without setting parameters on time, knowledge workers can get sucked into information and choice overload. As Iyengar notes, the abundance of information can be addictive and seductive.
How you use your allotted time can vary. “For some of us, you might decide that it’s more important that you spend one or two hours exploring lots of different things – that’s your time to really add creativity to your knowledge base,” they say. “For others, it may be a time to create focus and only search on that topic during the allotted time.”
Harvard International Review
Take breaks and limit projects
You should take breaks and limit the number of concurrent projects in order to minimize cognitive overload. This suggests that organizations should hire more analysts to deal with the flow of intelligence.
Information will fill the space you allow it.
Whether you believe in technology-free zones in your home or taking time to change your status to “do not disturb” it is super critical to give your brain periods of incubation to make sense of all the information that it is processing.
Remember that what junk food does to our bodies is not much different to what junk content does to our minds. And with such an amount of information available to us at any given moment, it’s important to be mindful of when our brains are full and need a chance to digest.
Stay tuned to our blog for the solutions that we prefer, and don’t forget to read our article on Storytelling and Pitching here.