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Coping With Information Overload
& Keeping Up with Your Profession

Every day we are bombarded by a virtual tsunami of data.  How do you stay current without becoming a karoshi victim?  What are the strategies for finding just the right amount of the right information?  Unfortunately, there are no universal magic bullets or "quick fixes" out there.  The techniques, strategies, and concepts listed below are the best defenses yet discovered.....


 Techniques to reduce overload:
  • Plan--for the long and short range
  • Prioritize tasks and communication
  • Group similar tasks and perform them in blocks
  • Use e-mail filters
  • Use intelligent agents for searching the web (e.g.:  Alexa),  & setting up profiles with services like
  • Uncover
  • Learn what to look for
  • Learn when to say, "enough" and stop looking
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Suggestions for creating a less stressful mental and physical work environment:
  • Eliminate clutter
  • Reduce noise
  • Reduce interruptions
  • Surround yourself with colors and images that are enjoyable and relaxing
  • Discard paper--establish a retention schedule for documents
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Process techniques to help you cope:
  • Do one task at a time
  • Remember to breathe
  • Take stretch breaks every hour or so
  • Exercise--20 to 30 minutes every day to "reset" your adrenalin levels
  • Adjust your "shoulds"--don't expect yourself to be expert in every aspect of your job
  • Use memory aids such as planners and lists to keep your mental processing space free
  • Schedule demanding tasks for the times when your brain (and body!) are most productive
  • Skim materials (new window) and invest your time and concentration only in relevant items
  • Develop information exchange relationships with people with expertise other fields important to you
  • Relabel your "guilt" reading pile the "just-in-case repository"
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Strategies for keeping current in your profession:
  • Define your interests
  • Select the two or three most relevant journals and monitor them
  • Attend  appropriate conferences
  • Mentor junior colleagues
  • Exchange information with other professionals who maintain expertise in other areas
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Things you can learn which will help you find what you are looking for and handle information more effectively:
  • Learn to use Internet search tools (new window) effectively
  • Clearly define your question(s) before beginning your research
  • Construct your own personal information filter to serve as a buffer between you and the deluge of data
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Ideas which provide understanding and a framework for coping with information overload:
  • Human memory span is limited to 7--plus or minus 2--items!!
  • There are common techniques, and corresponding thoughts, and feelings in the research process.  Understanding them can make the research process easier.  See: Kuhlthau's Model of the Research Process
  • Consequences of not handling information overload well are:
                    stress

                    accepting false information!!!

                    impaired judgement
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For more information:

Online resources for coping:

  • Stress Links (new window) (http://imt.net/~randolfi/StressLinks.html)
  • Mind Tools (new window) (http://www.mindtools.com/smpage.html)
  • Breathing Space (new window) (http://www.brespace.com)  

Stress & Students:

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Page Maintained by: Corryn Crosby-Muilenburg
Page Last Modified:
January 29, 1999
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