Want better mental energy? Reduce information overload first
It’s not exactly groundbreaking that the way you treat your body affects your mental energy. That’s why you’ll so often see advice that encourages people to try yoga, tea, sleep, or daily exercise as a way of bolstering their energy. Despite all of this being great advice, it doesn’t address a core issue: these solutions don’t reduce the stressors causing low mental energy in your life.
A significant stressor that’s undermining the mental energy of modern workers today is information overload. As people get bombarded by more emails, texts, articles, reports, and general information, their stress levels go up, and their mental energy decreases. By understanding what information overload is and how to combat it, you can begin to moderate your information diet and enjoy the boost to your mental energy that’ll come with it.
Why you need to be concerned about low mental energy
Low mental energy is more than just feeling a bit slow. Your physical, mental, and emotional well-being are all negatively affected when you’re mentally exhausted.
For instance, a person with low mental energy may experience:
- Negative moods that disrupt their relationships with others
- An inability to focus on and complete tasks
- Increased urges to indulge in bad habits
All of these negative outcomes compound on each other, making everything worse. For example, your inability to focus could impact your working life, which could lead to more stress, which results in less sleep, which lowers your mental energy, and so on and so forth.
For this reason, it’s crucial that you’re aware of threats to your mental energy levels so you can proactively counter them before they become much worse.
The effects of information overload on your mental state
Information overload (also called infobesity) is a major threat to your mental energy levels because it limits the ability of your brain to rest. In today’s society, people are inundated with a near-endless amount of information. At work, people deal with spreadsheets, reports, and emails, while at home, they’re swamped by social media and whatever is on TV.
With so much information directed at you, it’s no wonder that your brain has no time to process it properly. It also means that there are fewer times in a day when people just unplug and allow their mental energy levels to recharge.
Information overload also affects people by:
- Stressing them out as they feel like they can’t keep up with all the data sent their way
- Reducing their ability to understand new information, forcing them to read things over and over
- Creating a cluttered digital environment that frustrates people when they can't find what they actually need
Because the information landscape has changed so much in the last twenty years, many people still haven’t come up with coping mechanisms that protect them from information overload. Luckily, preventing information overload is something that anyone can do as long as they follow some basic guidelines.
4 ways to avoid information overload
Limiting information overload is critical to being a happier, more productive member of society. Interacting with data is a large part of all of our lives, and by using these methods, you’ll make your relationship with information a far healthier one.
1. Create intentional breaks from data throughout your day
People are creatures of habit. Promoting positive daily routines that give them time to process and recharge is one of the best ways to overcome information overload. Even just building in a couple of short breaks throughout your work day has a positive impact.
Some habits to start include:
- A walk after lunch with your phone on silent (or better yet: charging in your office)
- An hour cooking dinner in the evenings without videos or the TV playing in the background
- A yoga or meditation session in the late morning to break up your workday
Creating these kinds of intentional breaks throughout your day allows your brain to just relax. They’ll also help you better process whatever you were just working on for better retention and problem-solving. Plus, you get the physical and mental benefits that go along with these healthy habits.
2. Only interact with information sources that add value to you
People are naturally curious. Everyone wants to know everything they can. But in the age of near-limitless information, that's just not feasible. Instead of exhausting yourself by keeping up with everything, consciously narrow your focus to the most necessary, helpful, and authoritative sources of information that you need.
Many people’s knee-jerk reaction to this will be that everything they consume is important. But they're only thinking about the truly important information because that's what sticks in their mind. Pay close attention to the kinds of information you're consuming throughout your day and see if there are places you can cut.
There are probably thousands of things vying for your attention throughout the day, and chances are most of it is junk. Once you’re aware of the problem, take steps to limit it. Do this by:
- Refusing to check emails after 8 pm
- Putting limits on your social media
- Learning how to recognize and avoid click-bait articles
With practice, you’ll see how limiting your information consumption helps you to appreciate what you do read and interact with even more. As well, it’ll give you more time to focus on other tasks that might not tax your brain and mental energy quite so much.
3. Use tools to limit the impact of information overload
You don’t need to fight alone when it comes to combating information overload. There are tons of tools in the market designed to help you sort the good info from the bad.
Some common tools you should be using include:
- Pop-up and ad blockers to get rid of annoying images that grab your attention
- Email spam filters to automatically get rid of emails you don’t need to deal with
- Focus apps to encourage you to focus on one task at a time
Another common stressor that contributes to information overload is lost documents, emails, or articles that you’ve already read. If you can’t quite remember where they are, you might spend hours searching through piles of information, looking for that one specific thing.
Instead, adopt a tool like Heyday, which uses AI to resurface pieces of information you’ve already read. Not only will this save you time, but it’ll also help you keep your mental energy high, as you don’t need to waste it searching for what you want.
4. Keep yourself as organized as possible
Being organized helps you reduce stress by making it easy for you to know where everything is. However, being organized is not just about the physical world — it’s about the digital world too. According to one study, 71% of Americans were stressed out by their messy or cluttered digital desktops.
Avoid being a part of that 71% by keeping yourself digitally organized. Some helpful places to start include:
- Using a password manager
- Setting aside a day every month to organize your digital files
- Using a consistent and logical digital filing system
- Keeping all of your communications and documents in one place
- Creating knowledge bases to make it easy to refresh yourself on important topics
Keeping yourself organized might take some work at first, but the effort pays off in the long run. You’ll spend less time searching for things and more time maximizing your work hours. It could even help you get an extra 15 minutes a day for those new healthy habits you’re planning on working on.
Invest in keeping your mental energy high
People spend a lot of time and money every day taking care of their physical health and energy. By taking better care of their bodies, they see positive improvements in their lives in a myriad of different areas.
Investing in your mental health and energy is equally important. It’s too easy these days to be overcome by all the data and information you have available to you on your desktop or in the palm of your hand.
Take control of your digital diet
Try out Heyday, an AI-powered research assistant designed to help shoulder the burden of all the information you deal with on a daily basis.