A guy who was born in Canada, grew up in Indonesia, went to high school in Australia, spent half a year in Hawaii, and ended up back in Canada.
This is my story...
DR's Corner
Thursday, February 24, 2005

Information overload

Ever notice how quickly we get tired these days? Ever notice how we long for a nice vacation, even though we just took one a couple weeks ago? Ever notice how cranky, confrontational and unfriendly people seem in our daily lives? Ever notice that there seems to be tons of depressed, crazy and suicidal people in today's society?

Welcome to the world of information overload. Although there are many reasons for those situations I mentioned above, I would suggest that one common reason in all of those is the abundance (and sometime too much) of information that people have to deal with in their daily lives.

First, let me define what I think 'information overload' is: It's the flow of information, that comes way too fast and furious, causing us to take new information before we've had the time and chance to think about or use the previous information.

These are the days of instant solutions, instant news, instant food; people demand express availability of almost everything, including information, and that's why there's so much information flying around the world. People have enough problems to solve in life, and to solve problems, sometimes we need information. The overload of information just complicates the solution. It gives us too many choices to think about and how to best solve the problem quickly.

Let's examine a couple examples from my morning trip to the office:
- I get off my shuttle ride, and in front of me are 5 or 6 free publications, including 2 newspapers, condo/home buying guides, employment newspapers, car buying/selling publications, training guides, and you know what? They're all free to grab.
- On the train, advertisements galore, printed ads, electronic display ads, people reading newspapers, people listening to the radio, people listening to music, people using laptops to view their work ... If you look outside, billboards, cars with printed ads, buildings with advertisements ...
- Off the train, vendors selling food, people promoting a cause all over the station, advertisements on the floor, train display on the LCD monitors above.
- Walking to the office, the usual ads on the walls, people rushing to work all over the place, courier vans parked all over the place. I noted this because I've seen many courier vans get tickets for parking illegally in front of office buildings downtown. Information has to be delivered on time you know...

That's within an hour of me leaving my house, can you imagine how much information we're taking in a day? That's why our mind is churning almost 16 hours a day (even more because sometimes I still think while I try sleep, causing me to lose many hours of sleep). Isn't it any wonder that we're stressed out all the time? Trying to solve problems, and yet the information that's supposed to help us solve our problems just adds to what we have to process in our minds.

I'm bringing this up, because I notice that I'm quite confused as what I want to do in regarding to my income. I know that someday I would like to have my own business, and yet when I think about what I have to do, I just feel hopelessly overwhelmed. The information that I have to go through is just enormous in size. What kind of business to start, who I need to deal with, what I need to know, etc. etc. My first instinct as an IT guy would be the internet, and we all know how much information there is out there; filtering the information becomes a priority. Ditto with books, there are tons of authors out there, tons of books, and I need to research them first, which brings me back to the internet, and around the circle I go.

In this day and age, I do not believe that the 'traditional' vacation of 2 weeks/3 weeks out of the year works anymore. People need time off monthly, even weekly from the world. We need to take a break from the fast paced life we live in, time to process the information we have, relax and make good decisions.

I know it's hard to just shunt out the world every now and then, heck it's even hard to stay still in one place for a couple of minutes. And I know this, because I'm one guy who can't stand doing nothing; I'm always doing something, checking email, browsing the web, going out on weekends. Sitting down in front of a fireplace and listening to music just isn't me. And yet, I know that if I don't take time off every once in awhile, I'll be overwhelmed by this abundance of information around me.

That's why for the last few weeks, I've resisted getting the free newspapers on the way to work, so I can relax, gather my thoughts and reflect on the train. It's hard to do, because even if I'm sitting still, my mind still wanders around !!! But I suggest you try do this, it'll keep your mind from being overloaded.

I'll end this long post with 2 verses from the Bible:
Matthew 11:28
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Psalm 46:10a
"Be still and know that I am God;"

Blogger cun2x said...
Darrick!! Very GOOD post! :) I never think about all these tiredness from your point of view (caused by information overload). I gotta agree with what you say.. :D

As for the solution? Just to add, maybe the book "Blink" bro Wen read right now could help us out? :D It shows us how we make decision. I don't know if this belief is correct, but I still somehow believe that I could find a way to process all those information without stressing myself out in the process... :D (the reason why I keep reading books about personal productivity.. :P)

Thoughts?  

Blogger Darrick said...
Yeah.. Wen2's been promoting that book.. maybe I'll borrow it from him once he's done :)

Agreed that there's ways to efficiently process the information, but not all of them, coz there's just too much out there.

I guess being selective of which information to take in is the key here.  

Blogger Arza said...
Interesting post..

Actually that book blink is not about decision making. It is about how our mind 'thin-slices' a situation to get the bigger picture. And in order to be able to correctly do that, we need the knowledge and experiences :)

Well, i'm almost done with that book... let me know if u want to borrow it.

This is the full title of the book:
"Blink - The power of thinking without thinking"
Now, with that title, how can u resist not getting it? :)  

Blogger Darrick said...
I'm gonna resist getting it, just gonna borrow it from you :)  

Blogger cun2x said...
Arghh!! I want the book too... me first me first! :D Bole pinjem nga once Darrick is finished with it, bro Wen?

"I guess being selective of which information to take in is the key here."
Agreed! Now, how do we know which information to use without having to read all the information? :D Kind of a paradox, don't you think?  

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