Oct 30, 2013
Some have a problem with saying “no.” You can recognise them easily: they work late every night, spend all their weekends helping friends and neighbours with DIY projects, and have permanent shadows beneath eyes and a face that ask‘how can I help you?’
Refusing is an important coping strategy for dealing with information overload. Learning how to say “no” to more tasks when we’re already over-stretched will help us to become more productive.
Oct 9, 2013
As of today, RSS has failed. Even though there is a dedicated population using it, RSS never reached widespread popularity. Google’s latest research indicates that only 9.5% of internet users have ever subscribed to an RSS feed. 15 years after launch, RSS is still quite far from mainstream.
Why did it fail?
As a concept, RSS makes a lot of sense. People can easily create their own newspaper, fed from their favorite blogs or news sites, not having to worry about spam (unsubscribing is easy – it’s not email).
However, RSS does not solve the main problem with respect to consuming news: information overload. Quite the opposite, many users who try out RSS complain about receiving too much content. Despite being able to pick the RSS-feeds of your choice, the content which is sent through the feeds contains a lot of irrelevant stuff. In other words, even hand-picked RSS feeds are still too broad and not tailored enough to subscribers' needs.
Techcrunch is an excellent news source for the tech-savvy; however the average number of published stories per day is 40. Would you subscribe to feeds which each send you 40 articles per day? You’d be completely overwhelmed.
Sep 21, 2013
Productivity is not only about time management, avoiding distractions, and having well-structured To-Do lists. Sometimes the problem is at a more fundamental level: our fears. They can prevent us from taking action and realizing our goals.
In this post I'd like to analyze public speaking anxiety, which is frequently identified as people’s greatest fear:
“According to most studies, people's number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
– Jerry Seinfeld
Understanding the Problem
In order to understand the problem, I’ve tried to illustrate the different elements of Public Speaking Anxiety and how they are connected:
(Click on picture for full page view)
Let’s examine the root causes of public speaking anxiety one by one:
Aug 21, 2013
As we near the end of our series on strategies for coping with information overload, we’re ready to check out the simple but effective strategy of ‘altering. Altering means changing your perception of a task by performing it in a different way or place.
Everyone’s heard the phrase ‘a change is as good as a rest,’ but as with other well-known phrases, we rarely take the time to think about what it means and whether there is much truth behind it. In fact this is one saying that really hits the nail on the head (excuse the use of yet another cliché).
When we’re performing a task, we require something known as “directed attention” in order to process information related to that task. All too often the monotony of a task leads to directed attention fatigue, where we are no longer able to efficiently process information. One of the most effective ways to recover from that fatigue is to make small changes to the way we are working, stimulating different parts of the brain and restoring directed attention.
So what can you change?
You might think that the tasks you perform at work are pretty routine, with little scope for altering, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference small changes can make to your perception of what you need to do.
- Location. Even a slight change of location, such as turning your desk around or moving to a different part of your office, can help restore your attention. For a more extreme change, move to a coffee shop or other public place where there will be new stimuli for your brain. According to Attention Restoration Theory, nature is particularly powerful in helping us recover from directed attention fatigue. Working outside could be an option. Clouds in the sky, plants and flowers, birds in flight, and flowing water can all help restore attention.
- Media. Most of us now spend an inordinate amount of time seated in front of a computer, and almost all tasks are done digitally. Just consider for a moment the other types of media you could combine with your computer screen. When you’re taking notes, why not use a pen and paper or even a Dictaphone rather than a word processor. If you have to read or edit a document, decide whether you’d rather print it off or read it on the screen. If you need to brainstorm, get out the old flip chart or a white board and some magic markers. The experience can be strangely liberating.
- Environment. In our last article on ‘escaping’ we looked at the issue of noise in the workplace. If noise is a distraction for you, think about finding somewhere quieter to work or using sound reducing headphones. On the other hand you may feel that your work environment is too quiet. Switching on the radio, or just playing some background music while you’re working can stimulate your brain and help reduce attention fatigue. Also consider the temperature and air flow of your workspace. Perhaps you just need to open a window.
- Schedule. Is the task you have to complete really as dull as you think it is, or does the fact that you always do it during your 2:00 PM energy slump have an impact? Try switching your schedule so that you complete the task first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee. You might find you can do it quicker and more easily, and you might even enjoy it. If not, at least you don’t have to spend the rest of the day dreading it.