all the thingsYou’ve got what feels like 50 tabs open in your browser. 23 unread notifications demand your attention on Twitter. Another ‘must-watch’ video pops up in your news feed. Do you watch it now, save it for later or risk missing out? Your list of articles to read is growing longer by the day, and you feel as though you can’t keep up.

Does this sound familiar?

You might be experiencing information overload.

I love social media, but last year I started getting too much of a good thing. My phone was constantly buzzing with notifications from emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. Not only was this distracting, but it made me feel as though I was constantly behind. No matter how often I checked, there was still more to read, more to watch.

It soon got to the point where social media felt like a chore, something else on my to-do list, until I had a wave of realisation: Wait, I told myself, I don’t need to read everything!

It was a simple yet profound realisation. In my scramble to ‘keep up’, I had forgotten that I could be selective about what I chose to give my time and attention to. Social media has this way of making it seem like everything is important – news, comments, blogs, updates, politics, television, big and small events … all are treated with the same urgency. I knew I had to draw the line. So I decided to make a change.

Slowly, I implemented a few strategies to take back control over what I read, watch and listen to each day. Below are the things that helped me manage the constant flow of content. Maybe they will help you too?

Be selective
What I said to myself was true: you really don’t need to read everything. You don’t even need to read as much as you think. Choose to limit the content you regularly consume and restrict it to that which adds the most value – whether that value relates to your current role, your career, or your life in general. All the other content can wait or even be completely ignored.

It’s better to follow one or two fantastic blogs than 10 mediocre ones. Don’t be afraid to cull things that are average or unhelpful or time wasters. If you don’t ever get to that article you saved back in 2009 then so what? Stop feeling bad every time you see it waiting for you. Delete it. If you aren’t sure where the good content is ask people you admire for their top recommendations.

Limit your notifications
I’ve written previously about a simple technique that truly changed my life. I changed the settings on my smartphone so that the only notifications I receive are phone calls and text messages. Everything else – email, social media and other apps – needs to wait until I have time to give them attention. Limiting notifications means I’m not constantly being interrupted, and I can focus on tasks that are important to me. I know the updates will all be waiting for me when I log in – there’s no need to have notifications popping up on my phone every 5 minutes.

JOMO is the new FOMO
Next time you suffer from a ‘fear of missing out’, flip this concept on its head and look for the ‘joy of missing out’ instead. For example, you might miss out on watching the 6pm news so you can go for a walk with your family. Or miss out on reading everything that’s filled up your Twitter feed since you last checked, and instead read your favourite blog. Choose to miss out on things that leave you feeling bored, drained, uninspired, aimless. Use your time and energy on the activities that make you feel connected, educated, inspired.  

So, remember:

  1. You really don’t have to read, watch or catch up with everything.
  2. You get to choose what things can interrupt you.
  3. Celebrate being able to miss out on some things. No more FOMO!

I’m interested to hear from you. What you do to manage the volume of content you’d like to get to? Do you have any tips for limiting interruptions? What will you choose to miss out on and what exciting things are you going to do instead?