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Ohio Today

10 ways to conquer information overload

By Jeanne Heaton and Sheila Williams

Editor's note: Ohio University's Jeanne Heaton, MED '72 and PHD '75, an assistant professor of psychology, and Sheila Williams, MED '78, a clinical mental health counselor, recently co-wrote and presented a paper, "101 Ways to Manage Information Overload." Here are their tips for you.

Consider how you get information from your world: TV, radio, magazines, journals, newspapers, office mail, snail mail, the Internet, catalogues, brochures. And you can be reached by voicemail, e-mail, instant messenging, cell phones, pagers, faxes, Palm Pilot alarms, even pill boxes that beep. In short, you're inundated with information and requests for action all day, every day. Some ideas for coping with the deluge:

1. Cut down on clutter. Get rid of books, papers and magazines you "might read someday."

2. Let the phone ring. Allow the answering machine to do its work.

3. Focus your attention. Concentrate on the task in front of you. Let go of the past and ignore anxiety about the future.

4. When in doubt, throw it out. If an e-mail's subject line doesn't seem important, delete it.

5. Limit storage space. Each time you add something, throw out an equal amount.

6. Allow for transitions. Sit in the car for a few minutes before getting out; take a moment before entering a meeting or answering the phone.

7. Don't feel pressured to respond. Learn to say, "I don't know," "I need time to think about it" or, most importantly, "no."

8. Stop rushing. Don't expect yourself to constantly perform faster and better.

9. Protect your time. Schedule free time, and don't let anything interfere with it.

10. Recognize that life is always unfinished. It is unrealistic to believe you will ever be "caught up."

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