Information Overload

More than ever before, we live in a world with so much information that it can easily overwhelm even the most organized minds. According to a study from the University of San-Diego the average American consumes 34 gigabytes of information daily.  We have virtually unlimited entertainment available to us in all forms of television, social media, music, books, and art. Everyday thousands of cool things are being done around the world in the realms of science, technology, and business, more than we could ever hope to keep up with. With 8 billion people on our planet, there is so much going on that even if we spent every waking moment of our lives trying to keep up with all the news, we wouldn't come close. 

Being surrounded by so many constant streams of information has a variety of consequences. It causes anxiety, fatigue and overwhelms us, it lowers the quality of our decisions, and worsens our ability to focus deeply. 


We are in a digital age now, always connected to everyone, with a multitude of platforms to share and receive information. On top of all in person communications, we can now be contacted at any time, any place, no matter what we’re doing. This complicates our ability to sort through information and makes it incredible difficult to organize the information we need. 

Because it is so easy to share information now, we have become more focused on the quantity of information, rather than the quality of information. This leads to mass misinformation and the sharing of irrelevant information. Giving us even more information to sort through to find what we need, while forcing us to analyze everything we see to make sure it's accurate. We no longer have to give a second thought before sending a message, and so our messages have overall become less relevant. 

A study by Gartner surveying nearly 1000 employees and managers found that 38% of employees say they receive an “excessive" amount of information and 27% say they feel somewhat overloaded with information. 


The sheer volume of information makes it harder for us to separate the signal from the noise. We have to work a lot harder to find the relevant information that we need.  We are also played upon by our psychology, with the choice of which information gets shown to us done by an external, usually through some algorithm we can't see, risking confirmation bias, and the spread of misinformation. 

We are deteriorating our attention spans with shorter and shorter periods in which we can have uninterrupted focus, and every time we get a message, it takes us time to bring our focus back to whatever were working on. With shorter attention spans we also struggle more to think deeply about anything, because it takes time and attention to unpack something fully, and develop our thoughts. 

When we are overwhelmed, it has negative effects on our memory, creativity, stress and can lead to burnout. 

How do we protect ourselves from overwhelm with all this information being thrown at us every day? 

Protecting ourselves from overwhelm starts by becoming aware of all the ways we see or hear information; which platforms, which contexts and for which purposes. Notice when you begin feeling overwhelmed with information, and ask yourself how you can break the information into bite-sized chunks, to ease your stress. 

We can also practice focused mindfulness to train our concentration amidst nearly unlimited distraction. This will allow you to stay in control of your concentration and will allow you to stand out by being one of the few in the world that can focus. 

Conscious decisions on how and when you seek information will place a structure on the information you see, and will allow you to stay in control of what you consume, and how you consume it. To help with this, set limits for your information consumption. 

Setting limits

Your time and your attention are finite, there is a limit to how much you can do, and how much you can consume before your energy is drained. 

In order to maintain a sustainable level of energy, we need to limit when and how we consume information, so that we aren't bombarded when we aren't expecting it. 

This can come in the form of turning off email notifications and checking your email only at specific times everyday, so that you aren't distracted when your in the middle of a task. 

Limits can also come in the form of changing which apps you use to message people, switching to a one app system, or perhaps one professional messaging app and one personal. You can limit when and how you check the news, choosing a specific time or specific platform to check on the world. 

On Guard

There is too much information to process in our digital age, so we should stop trying to process it all. Rather than trying to learn everything about everything and gaining a shallow understanding of the things you learn, try to focus on understanding fewer things, more deeply.  

With it being so easy to share and receive information today, we need to guard our mental health, to protect ourselves from the dangers that come with being overwhelmed. We should limit when and how we consume information, sticking to less apps, during pre-specified times. The important thing is to be conscious of the information you consume, and the ways it affects you, making sure that you are sharing and receiving information in the way you have the most control over.