Category Archives: productivity

THE MESS WE’RE IN: INFORMATION OVERLOAD IN THIS AGE AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

THE MESS WE’RE IN: INFORMATION OVERLOAD IN THIS AGE AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

The Mess Of Our Age

We need information to survive in this age. But it is information that is killing us. The arrival of the information age has brought in a knowledge-based society that is driven by high tech technology. Information can now be churned up at blinding frequencies, disseminated in a matter of seconds to viewers and audience in all over the world and the impact felt almost immediately. There is an information glut. We have become ‘informationally’ overweight and we risk long-term devastating consequences  We are like the overfed, overweight child drowning in the pool of ‘information food’ and vomitus. Call it information obesity. Infobesity it is. We are experiencing on a daily basis, apart from the toxicity of green house gases, an infotoxication- information toxicity as the Wikipedia article puts it.

But the problem of information overload is not new: it has has an age-old history. To quote the holy writ, Ecclesiastes 12:12:

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many book  there is  no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

And in the 1st Century AD, Seneca says:

distringit librorum multitudo 
(the abundance of books is distraction)

Ann Blair says that that signs of information overload were already present in the the accumulation of manuscripts in pre-modern cultures which were further accelerated by the introduction of printing in the 15th-century Europe by Gutenberg. Printing made available a huge number of books and ultimately lowered the cost of books. Books were no longer concentrated in the hands of the elite. The average person now had access to the information as well. However, the rate at which information could be read, digested and remembered could not keep pace with the rate at which information, through books, was being churned out. To cope with the situation came in aids of various kinds- copying relevant passages of books and hiring people to take notes. But the problem as it was then is nothing compared to the now of information age. The problem of information overload has only has been magnified to the nth degree in this age of the internet and new digital technologies.The 2017 statistics, Things That Happen On The Internet Every 60 Second gives the following absolutely incredible highlights:

  • More than 168 million emails are sent
  • 695,000 status updates and 510,040 comments are published on Facebook
  • Google serves more that 694,445 search queries
  • 370,000+ minutes of voice calls done by Skype users
  • 20,000 new posts are published on Tumblr
  • 13,000+ hours of music streaming flows from Pandora
  • More than 13,000 iPhone apps are downloaded
  • 6,600 images are published on Flickr
  • 600 videos (about 25 hours of content) are uploaded to YouTube

Things that happen on Internet Every 60 Seconds 2017 Statistics

Infographic by- GO-Gulf.com
How We Are Being Messed Up

“…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”
― Herbert A. Simon

Attention is a personal resource that is scarce-subject to opportunity costs like every other scarce commodity. We can only focus on a few things at a time and only so much. But the drag of information from various quarter on our attention is creating a bad culture- a culture of distraction where our minds flitter from one thing to the next. You are working, hoping to finish a task on time when a push notifications beckons for your attention. And the allure to see what it is is almost irresistible. What if this is an opportunity I will miss? As you take a peek, a series of e-mail arrives. You shrug and decide to ‘see’ and then before you are done with the e-mails, arrives notifications from Facebook . And it’s your longtime friend abroad who has sent a post. You feel like you must see this. You tell yourself that since you have started attending to these information already, you had better finish. But the deception is a sneaky one. Before you know it, you have spent over three hours on the social media and your priority work is not done. And then guilt and self-loathing steps in, setting you up for another cycle of the addictive behaviour. Does the experience sounds familiar?

I was heartbroken sometime ago when a national exam body in Nigeria lamented how the social media is responsible for the failure rates of student in the country. Could a seemingly harmless distraction from reading be responsible for stealing the futures of our generation? I ache. The impact then is not harmless as one might think. A study  corroborating this dismal fact states in a likewise dismal tone that children who spend much of their time online find it harder to concentrate in class, are permanently distracted and have shorter attention spans. The report concludes that the children with the poorest grades at school are the ones who spent most time on social networking.

And it is not only individuals who are facing the menace of attention deficits due to information overload. Huge corporations and national economies are not left out. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found after careful observation that the typical office worker is interrupted or switches tasks, on average, every three minutes and five seconds. And it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds just to get back to where they left off. Jonathan Spira, author of  “Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization,” estimates that interruptions and information overload eat up 28 billion wasted hours a year, at a loss of almost $1 trillion to the U.S. economy.

Wikipedia article on Information Overload quotes A December 2007 New York Times blog post which described e-mail as “a $650 billion drag on the economy.”

With information overload also comes the inability to make quality decisions. Surrounded by huge amount of information that are so conflicting, we face an information shock that paralyzes us. We are unable to choose from various alternatives.  Our anxiety to take the best decision in the face of the glut mounts and inevitably becomes counterproductive to our best intent. In the end, we must make decisions; we must take a decision because the world will not stand still for us to sort through the melee of information confronting us. The confusion at having  served conflicting, contradictory information eventually leads us on a path to poor judgement and decisions.

 

That man is led primarily by emotions and not by reason is further accentuated by the information glut of the information age. If you think I am incorrect to say man is largely governed by emotions, tell me then how reasonable it is for a person to buy a bottle of Pepsi because his favorite artiste NIcki Minaj advertised it?

A Google search will fetch all articles on the internet to confirm one’s bias. One cannot think of anything that has no article for or against it on the internet. I was amazed myself when I discovered this. I found out that there was virtually no topic that I could think of that has not being written about on the internet. Try it yourself. Think of anything- just anything! Do a Google search and prove the fact yourself. This discovery leaves man at his whims. Everything is relative. Nothing is ever correct or wrong. We are validating the saying in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” A morally relativistic society where anything goes is an unenviable one tethering on the brink of a precipice.

 

What We Can Do About The Mess

One thing: we cannot afford allow ourselves to be swallowed up by information overload. If we are to live happy and productive lives, our attention must be regained and directed at that which matters. A splintered mind is a splintered life and at best good for nothing and worth nothing. A mind divided among conflicting ideas is a injurious to our mental health.

To study and raise awareness about the problem and provide solutions, the Information Overload Research Group (www.iorgforum.org) was created by interested parties from the corporate and academic worlds.The group quotes Huffington post ‘8 Tips For Avoiding Information Overload’. The blog post was based on what nine readers said works for them:

  1. Skip the alerts

“I’ve disabled my social media and email app alerts. I only log in when I have spare time [versus] every moment my phone dings. It helps you stay centered and on task.” ― Brandi Garrigus 

  1. Personalize your feeds

“I make personal news feeds so I can choose exactly what kind of ‘posts’ I want to see pop up on my page. I have ‘High School friends,’ ‘Politics,’ ‘Local Photographers,’ ‘News and Weather’ and other feeds so I can ignore crazies when need be.” ― Donna Weckerly 

  1. Log off

“I log off for a week once a month and read, paint and cook instead.” ― Tashika Shah

  1. Prioritize

“The secret is to scroll on by ― some people’s postings are not personal and some news [is] sensationalized and written with an agenda… Scroll on by and filter… And prioritize. Urgent and important have key differences.” ― Bevon Bernard

  1. Read books

“I read a book on my Kindle for Mac to break up the [Facebook] madness. Works for me…” ― Ralph Guay

“I go back to reading my book to clear my mind.” ― Frances Quinn

  1. Unfollow and unsubscribe  

“I clear email subscriptions at least once a week… On social media, I skim and regularly clear out pages posting excessive clickbait, sensationalist/outrageous fake news or articles. I actively seek out three to four news sites ― and unfollow personal feeds that work my nerves.” ― Nikole Hester

  1. Let it go 

“Sometimes. You. Just. Have. To. Stop. Take a breath. Let it go. I like to put feeds into categories. Family comes first.” ― Laura Liebel 

  1. Clean house 

“I used to have over 900 friends and well over 1,500 ‘liked’ pages. I got too involved in everything I felt like I was losing myself. I spent almost four hours un-friending and un-liking things. It feels so much better to only see my close family and friends’ items.” ― Sharon Trobaugh

The impact of information overload does not spare anyone of us. The consequences attending information overload can be more devastating than we think. It requires that we look deeply into the matter and see how our lives are being shaped negatively by it. I  have determined to do same. We must win this war of information against us. We must convert information from being our enemy to our friend; to something all-benefical. We must, If we care. For ourselves.

Have a great day.

Please post your comments below and let me know what you think. Please subscribe to have my posts emailed directly to you.

Check out my last post ‘Overcoming Success

ENTER FLOW STATE: HOW TO BECOME MORE PRODUCTIVE IN 2018

Flow State: What is it?

Have you ever engaged in an activity and wondered at the end of it how the time flew? Or ever being engaged in an activity that you lost consciousness of time? I’m sure you have had these kinds of experience even if once in a while. At that time, you were thoroughly enjoying yourself so that time stood at attention for your sake- or so it seems. During those times you are in mental state termed by psychologists as the flow state.

According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi who coined the term in 1975, he defined flow state as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” Flow state is also described as ‘being in the zone’.

When you are in the flow state, you lose consciousness of time, environment and all else except the work you are on. You are fully immersed, totally absorbed, paying attention fully- nothing else matters. You could have performed that activity for the whole day except that your mom or dad or someone else interrupted you. Don’t you wish every task was like that? You wish your coursework in school will engage your attention like that.

Typically, people enter flow state when they are pursuing an activity that is meaningful to them; when they are intrinsically motivated and not coerced by some external force. And often these activities that put people in flow state are usually low-priority activities, the ones that do not contribute to personal development or future prospects. Take for example, the teenager who plays video game all day to the neglect of his schoolwork. Or the employee who gets distracted from his work and finds himself chatting on Facebook.

How can one transfer this misplaced flow state to really important things? What if one could enter flow state in what really matters? Is this possible? Sure. Though flow state is desirable, we seem to enter it in rare moments. By learning the principles undergirding it, we can hack our brains to get into the flow state.

Motivation and Purpose

Psychologists have conducted extensive research and found out that humans are more intrinsically motivated in doing what what they do than by extrinsic means. Psychologist Edward Deci (quoted in Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us) says, human beings have an “inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore and to learn.”

That is, the employee who enjoys his job and gives his best at it is not doing so primarily because of the large paycheck or job security but because his job satisfies a deeper inner need like: the enjoyment of the job itself, a sense of making a contribution to the good of the society or growing personally.

Internal drives or desires are really the motive for giving one’s best to a task and ultimately being a flow state. Thus, being intrinsically motivated about a task or activity is key achieving and maintaining flow state.

To become intrinsically motivated, one must discover the reason for being. Call it vocation or life’s work or purpose. You must discover what you are going to spend the rest of your life doing or living for. This is what you must discover for yourself–not something to be externally imposed. The student forced by his parents to read law finds he has no interest in his coursework. He reads to get by and to please his parent. He hopes for the day when he will be released from his prison to do what his heart is really after.

Your purpose can be found in what your heart craves to do- the longing that will not go long after everything crowding your heart goes. What is that thing you want to do with and for the rest of your life? What is that will wake you in the morning and keep you late at night? What do you dream of? In 1962, Clare Boothe Luce, one of the first women to serve in the U.S. Congress offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy. “A great man,” she told him, “is one sentence.” Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.”  Daniel Pink recommends asking yourself the big question: “What’s your sentence?” Let me put it for you: “What is the one sentence that will be said of you? What do you want to be remembered for?”

Getting Better

Discovering your sentence- your purpose is one thing. And pursuing purpose is another. Pursuing purpose is a daily thing. You set goals daily and seek to achieve them. And this where ‘flow’ come in. Entering the flow state requires that you are constantly challenging yourself. You desire to improve and do better than yesterday.

The brain seeks novelty , unpredictably and complexity. The yearning to grow, to be better is innate. And we must pay attention and do something about it. When we lapse into routine, when work is no longer providing stimulus for growth, we enter into a state of tedium. Our minds flitter from one thing to the other, we are enter into a self-reflection and our work and productivity suffers. We are distracted because we are bored.

The key thing here is to constantly raise the bar on your performance; to keep getting better and better at what you do- in the thing that is in line with your purpose. Strive to improve a little each day. In other words, seek mastery. Read my blog post: Go For Goals and Grow for further understanding on goal-setting.

Daniel Pink recommends five steps in becoming better and achieving mastery which I digest here for you:
1.Remember that deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. Anders Ericsson has said: “Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time.”
2.Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repetition matters. Great athlete repeat to perfection.
3.Seek constant, critical feedback.
4.Focus ruthlessly on where you need help. That is, work on your weaknesses rather than on your strength only.
5.Prepare for the process to be mentally and physically exhausting. This might sound contradictory to the idea of flow state but on closer look, it is not. An activity that is mentally and physically demanding becomes more easier and enjoying as you persist it. Ask how great players like Serena Williams keep on with hard practice to stay on top of their game. They enjoy hard practice!

Finding Your Flow Times

And, there are certain times of the day when we are more easily able to enter the flow state. All times of the day are not alike for everyone. Some do better in the mornings, others in the afternoons or evenings. Monitor yourselves and find out what times of the day you perform optimally. Schedule high priority activities during those times. For me, my best times are very early in the morning. Find out yours.

In summary, flow state or ‘being in the zone’ guarantees optimal performance. So this year 2018, make it a business to enter your flow state.

Please post your comments below and let me know what you think. Please subscribe to have my posts emailed directly to you.  Have a great day.

Further Reading:

1.Flow State: What it is https://www.huffingtonpost.com/alayna-kennedy/flow-state-what-it-is-and_b_9607084.html

2.Hack Into Your Flow State And Quintuple Your Productivity. https://www.fastcompany.com/3031052/how-to-hack-into-your-flow-state-and-quintuple-your-productivity

GO FOR GOALS AND GROW

I believe you have dreams. Everyone has dreams. Because we are designed to dream. Like I have read somewhere, dream is cheap. Everyone is free to dream because it is free. But what distinguishes a serious, successful person from a mere dreamer is the willingness to take steps, that is, incremental steps towards achieving what dreams he has in mind. As humans we want to grow. We want to believe that we are capable of greater things than we have seen ourselves do, that there is more to us that we realize. We truly want to believe that. And it is not far-fetched. Because? It’s true. We all have capacity for great things. We are capable of more than we realize. But to realize what we are capable of, we not only have to dream, we need a very important ingredient: G-O-A-L-S! Goals. It is one thing that separate the overachiever from the underachiever. The underachiever is content with mere flights of fancy; the overachiever maps out his way to bring into concrete reality his flights of fancy. A goal is simply a plan of action to reach your dream. It is, put another way, your strategy. Your dream needs a strategy. Like Rick Pitino wrote in his book, Success Is A Choice, dreams are where we want to end up. Goals are how we get there.

It is always tempting (at least, I know from personal experience) to dream and set out bringing it to reality without mapping out a plan of action. But what military general doesn’t map out a plan of attack to win a battle? We think it is too cumbersome taking time to plan and set goals. We’d rather want to get on with it; to begin work immediately. We think time spent planning and setting goals is time wasted. But only when we begin to hit obstacles that we could have navigated around, do we begin to know that something is not right. Something is not right. But it might not be with your dream itself but with your approach. Like someone said, “time spent planning is not wasted time.” You have probably made some New Year resolutions at the beginning of this year like most do. That’s good. But have you thought about the necessary steps to achieve your resolutions, your dreams, at the end of the year 2018? If your dreams means anything to you, you must establish plan of actions that involves what you must do DAILY to reach your dreams. Your long-term success will depend on your daily routine. John C. Maxwell wrote, in his book, Put Your Dream To The Test, “The secret to your success is found in your daily agenda.” Your daily successes link up together to make your dreams come true. So figure out how to make everyday count. Eliminate the irrelevancies that will not contribute to the achievement of your dreams. Stay focused on the steps to your dreams.

Here are some facts to note about goals:

  1. Goals helps us to be disciplined. They establish priorities and makes us organized.
  2. Break down your dreams into as many components as possible.
  3. Write down the steps needed to achieve each component. Writing down goals helps us to face reality. Goals should be written down and followed.
  4. Setting and attaining short-term goals will fuel the desire for more achievement. So it is best to set short-term goals for what we want to achieve long-term. The evidence of little successes will bolster our confidence and motivation.
  5. Establish a daily routine to achieve your dreams. Consistency is more important than intermittent bursts of activity.
  6. When you have achieved a goal, raise the bar a little higher each time. After all, you are not interested in what you can already do, but in what more you can do. The goal is be a little better each time.
  7. Celebrate small successes. You are improving and that’s worth celebrating. Reward yourself but don’t indulge yourself. You are to celebrate success, leave it behind and go create another.

I recommend reading the blog post ‘Personal Growth Principle’ by Donald Latumahina at www.lifeoptimzer.org

You can read yesterday’s post Failure Is A Situation, Never A Person by clicking on the link.

Please post your comments below and let me know what you think. Have a great day.

FAILURE IS A SITUATION, NEVER A PERSON

Somebody out there is about to give up. But don’t. You can get up and try one more time.

Failure is a situation, never a person. (I took that line from John Mason’s book, Know Your Limits Then Ignore Them this morning). We tend to unconsciously link failure with our self-esteem. Our self-talk goes something like: “If I failed, then I must be a failure.” But such conclusion is all wrong. All wrong! Such belief will only hamper your ability to succeed in life. We must disconnect failure from our  self-worth. It might not be that easy but we can do it. Many a great man made many attempts before finally succeeding. While it is great to expect success, it is realistic to expect some failures along the way. In fact, great men are those who have gone through failure after failure without giving up. The famous story of Thomas Edison comes to mind. When asked about his failure at inventing a light bulb 1,000 times, he replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Every mistake you have made so far, every failure you have experience so far, can be a step forward-if you learn from them and refuse to quit.

It is said that Albert Einstein failed math as a student (I am not encouraging you to be a math-hater though), but he never gave up. And today, his name is synonymous with physics. There are many such stories of success after repeated failures that could be told to fill a tome.

I had the privilege of having an elderly man speak to me some heartfelt words yesterday. The words still linger in my mind. He said something that I will want to keep with me for the rest of my life. Here is what he said: “Defeat never comes to a man until he admits it.” That is, a man is not a failure, until he admits that he is one. A man may fail at a venture many times but that does not make him a failure.

The theme of this blog is about balance- balance in every sphere of life. Nature creates balance. Life creates balance. When balance is upset, problems result. For example, in high school biology, where there is an imbalance between the producers and consumers in a ecosystem, problems arise. Same thing too in life. You need a balance of successes and failures. Every successful person will have a fair share of failures or mistakes. After all, we are only imperfect humans in an imperfect world. In fact, the Bible says it so in Ecclesiastes 7:14:

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other…”

Here are some facts and lessons about failure that I have gleaned from my reading and experiences so far:

  1. It is better to fail than not try at all. Making mistakes or failing is proof that you are taking a step forward.
  2. Failure is feedback. Failure is an opportunity to learn and continue. Many successes were built from previous failures.
  3. Failure is a situation, never a person. Stop linking your failures without your self-worth. It keeps you down. Yes, failure can be emotionally devastating but you can get over those emotions by proper self-talk.
  4. It is not over until you give up. Get up and try again and again until you get it right.
  5. You can learn from the mistakes of others. You will not have the whole time in life to make all the mistakes you can make. Learn from the mistakes of others and minimize yours. A fool refuses to learn from the mistakes and failures of others. In fact, I keep my ears and eyes open to learn from the mistakes of others. Sometimes, I put myself in the shoes of another who has failed to see what I could have done differently. The great thing is that I learn not only for myself in so doing but for others as well.

Find a way to keep yourself motivated despite the failures you experience. In my own way, I read something motivational each day very early in the morning (say, 4 am) when my mind is still fresh and not yet filled with the clutter of the day’s activities. This year start a habit of encouraging yourself in the midst of life’s challenges. You might want to have a favorite motivational quote hung somewhere on the wall of your room where you can see it. Such small actions can make a very big difference in your motivation level.

In closing, I would like to quote Winston Churchill on this matter.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Try again. I believe you will succeed. It is your right to succeed.

Have a happy day.

Please post your comments below. Let me know what you think.