How to Deal with Information Overload, the Multipod Way
Photo courtesy of 'miss.killer'.

How to Deal with Information Overload, the Multipod Way

Written by Emilie

Topics: Productivity, Updates

There’s this inner conflict that comes with being a multipotentialite: on one hand, we want to explore and open up our world to new ideas, people and projects. Multipods crave experience.

On the other hand, we need to feel like we’re on solid ground physically and emotionally, which means not being too stressed, overwhelmed or distracted.

The advice we’re typically given is that we should focus on one thing, otherwise we’ll never get anything done or amount to anything. As we know, that isn’t true, and it isn’t helpful advice for multipotentialites. When multipods restrict our focus to a single thing for long periods of time, we become bored and frustrated. We also don’t get to make use of our super powers.

On the other hand, giving ourselves free reign to explore everything at the drop of a hat, at the same time, definitely leads to information overload and wheel-spinning. Multipotentialites need to find a balance. We need boundaries. And those boundaries look different for each of us.

Getting things done during difficult times

Many of us are especially in need of boundaries now, with the state of things. I’ve noticed that a lot of people, multipotentialite and specialists alike, seem to be feeling incredibly overwhelmed and distracted right now.

Some of us are dealing with a lot of fear, anger and sadness. Many of us (raises hand) have been reading news headlines, and scrolling Facebook obsessively for months. It’s just been… a lot.

Here are a few tips to help you reinstate some order and calm in your life so that you can refocus on your multipotentialite projects and bring out your best work.

1. Remind yourself of your priorities

What were you working on before everything got crazy? What were your big goals? Are you still excited about them?

If you’re feeling afraid right now, try to put that fear aside for a minute, close your eyes and let yourself daydream. If you could work on anything right now, what would it be? How would that feel?

Narrow it down to 1-4 projects and try to spend time on one or more of these projects each day. If possible, do that work before you check your email and social media. That’s easier said than done. But if you can work on a priority project before getting swept up in the drama around you, you’ll feel infinitely more centered as you go about your day.

2. Adhere to the Rule of Cs

On that same note, I’ve always been a fan of Leo Babauta Rule of Cs (my name for it). It goes like this:

Most of our activities can be grouped into one of three categories: connecting, consuming and creating.

  • Some examples of connecting activities are: having a conversation, writing an email and texting.
  • Some examples of consuming activities are: reading a book or article and doing research.
  • Some examples of creating activities are: writing, brainstorming a business idea and making art.

Here’s the rule: You can connect and consume at the same time (e.g. texting with a friend while you read an article and listen to a podcast), but when you create, you should only create. Don’t combine creating activities with either consuming or connecting.

If you’re anything like me, your consumption has likely been through the roof lately. Carve out some dedicated creating time and just create, if only for a few blissful minutes. Set a timer if it helps.

3. Temporarily pare down your projects

In difficult times, it can be helpful to pare down your projects and take on less. Don’t worry, you won’t lose your multipotentialite badge if you just focus on one thing for a few months.

It’s okay to slow down, take breaks from your projects and lower your expectations for yourself. Call it a much-needed act of self-care.

4. Disconnect

This is both the most obvious and hardest advice to follow. If possible, try to disconnect from the things that distract and overwhelm you. That might mean deleting social media apps from your phone, not logging in at all or avoiding certain people and/or topics.

I downgraded to a dumb phone a while back, and that helped with my information addiction. But it is hard. I still find myself scrolling through news feeds when I’m on my laptop. Do what you can. Screen-addiction is real, but disconnecting does get easier the more you do it.

5. Get Support

You may not need to cut everything out of your life to get back on solid ground. In fact, there might be some things that you can add to your life to help support your priority projects.

If you’re trying to write a novel, could you join a writing class to give you some structure and accountability? If you’re looking for a new direction in your career, could you find or start a supportive group to bat ideas around with? What could you add to your life to help support your projects?

Resources to Help Support Your Many Projects

If you’re looking for some affordable resources to help support your projects, check back here next week because I’ll be running my annual holiday sale here on Puttylike. From Dec 6-7, you’ll be able to buy Renaissance Business, Productivity for Multipotentialites and Multi-Passionate Branding for 40% off!

I only run sales like this about once a year (I think I actually skipped it last year, so we’re definitely due for a sweet sale).

But here’s the thing: I don’t want these courses to be distractions for you. I want them to be resources that genuinely support your projects and help you reach your goals. And I believe that they can serve that role.

So with that said, check your email next Tuesday, Dec 6 for your festive discount code.

Your Turn

How do deal with information overload during difficult times (or just anytime)? Got any tips to share with your fellow multipods?

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist carpenter. Learn more about Emilie here.

27 Comments

  1. Keri says:

    As much as I love facebook for networking, getting the word out about various events, finding that strange detail that I need *right now*, or other solutions, I had to refrain from facebook scrolling after the election. Just so much bad news.

    I also changed my alarm from the news station (bad news and heavy themes) to something cheerful (my kids voices saying encouraging things, or classical music). That made those first few minutes of the day so much more positive!

  2. Jas says:

    Wow, I loved reading this and it particularly resonates with me at this moment in time. I am such an information-junkie it can be ridiculous (as well as a beautiful strength, when managed in moderation!). I, too, have had spells of getting rid of social media apps and even Whatsapp – interestingly, with the latter, I found that at that time it made me more isolated which wasn’t so good with respect to things I was going through at the time. I currently have Facebook decativated, and put myself on the waiting list for this phone(http://www.thelightphone.com/#phone4) which is currently unavailable in the UK. I’ve toyed with using an old Nokia or suchlike in the meantime…

    My biggest weakness is time spent on my own, and I find the start to the day is often key in determining how the rest of it goes (i.e. a “wake up, immediately jump on mobile/laptop and incesseantly scroll” kinda start is usually a baaad omen).

    I thought I’d share what a good morning looks like for me:

    – Wake up and complete that day’s entry in the 5-Minute Journal (gratitude + expressing your ‘3 things to do that will make it a good day; there’s a short “evening reflection’ before bed, too) – https://www.intelligentchange.com/products/the-five-minute-journal
    – Breakfast cereal
    – 5-15 minutes of mindfulness meditation (using the Headspace/Buddhify App)

    …and then, if it’s a REALLY good morning, a short burst (half hour?) of writing – either my own cathartic, morning-pages type ritual or writing a blog article.

    I just need a few more of those good mornings – they feel so good! :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Jas,

      Thanks for sharing the link to the light phone. That looks amazing.

      And I too am a big fan of a solid morning routine. Headspace is great.

  3. Jenn says:

    I love your reminder…

    “Here’s the rule: You can connect and consume at the same time (e.g. texting with a friend while you read an article and listen to a podcast), but when you create, you should only create. Don’t combine creating activities with either consuming or connecting.”

    Thank you!

  4. Marie says:

    Great topic as always!

  5. Gabi says:

    Hmm, but what if the creating thing I’m doing I can also do while watching a movie or talking to friends? My spinning (the making yarn kind) meets every week and we spin while connecting. I also knit or spin while sort of watching a silly movie or show, only because it gets so quiet. I also have friends who listen to books while doing their fiber arts.

    I’ve thought of using music instead but then I want to sing or dance which doesn’t work so much with knitting.

    • Emilie says:

      That’s a good point, Gabi. I guess it’s just a general rule that doesn’t apply to all forms of creating. I’ve noticed this in my life, too. For instance, I can totally draw or work on my business and listen to music at the same time. But if I’m writing, I really need to be totally focused on writing. Just depends on the form the creating takes (and the individual) I guess.

  6. Pancho Pantera says:

    Gabi, you are right. I have noticed that there are activities where I can multitask, like washing dishes and talking on the phone. However, I cannot decide what seasoning to use next if I am cooking and someone talks to me. I guess some tasks require less of our attention so we can spare some attention for another task, and it doesn’t mean you are not creating by spinning your yarn. I think it’s a different level of creation where your mind is not working too hard even if your hands are.

    About this article, I really have a problem with info overload. Information sucks me in. I always used to read everything that I could get my hands into, and that is really bad when there is endless information on a computer or some other device. What I have been doing lately is to try to stay quiet and not react to any impulses until I can think of the next thing that actually requires my attention.

    • Emilie says:

      Good point, Pancho. I think it is really about noticing those impulses when you have them. Even just noticing them takes away a lot of their power. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Marine says:

    It is sad to say, but for me the terrorist attacks in Paris last year made me decide to disconnect suddenly.
    No news on Tv, only on Google News with selected topics, no social networks permanently connected – I still always log out so that when I go on the web I don’t see first what’s going on. I can follow my thoughts.
    And having done that for a year now, I can say I’m feeling much better : less stress and no more nightmare. It’s good to disconnect !

    I like your other advices on your post : it’s exactly what I started to do recently (perhaps the reading of Puttylike articles ??!!) :
    – I give order to my projects because sometimes one is better done before another one.
    And it’s always satisfaction when a thing is finished,
    – I joined a class and a workshop for ceramics (my favorite art at the moment) so each time I go there to create, obviously I can’t be doing anything else,
    – and at last I joined a group of freelancers for regular meetings.

    So i would encourage people to do the same, not to remain alone too long.
    But, the disavantage of these groups for multipods… is that they can give news ideas !

  8. Dakota says:

    This is incredibly timely for me, as I literally just posted about this problem in a group this morning. I have multiple projects underway, and the bad news and conflict (both on a personal level and on a more general level) is simply overwhelming. It’s not easy to just step away from social media, either, as that’s where I do a good bit of my work! For me it mostly comes down to knowing what will help me detox, but needing the reminder that I know.

  9. Doug says:

    Perfect timing, Emilie! I was just pulling out my goals and dusting off the moleskin journal again yesterday.

    Something else that helped me work through recent events was being on the road. I had a business trip for a couple of days, then a quick weekend road trip. Getting out of the regular daily habits all together was really helpful.

    Thanks for being here for us! – Doug

  10. Myriam says:

    Great piece! Thank you!
    I’ve been on a screen lock-out from 9pm to 9am everyday for a little over a year. It has radically changed how I deal with screens and information in general. I still experience overload during the day, but at least I have time to “digest and process,” and I also have more control over information binging. It’s hardest in the morning, when I really want to check my emails, but my mornings now are all the more precious and creative! I meditate and have breakfast mindfully, and I sometimes have time to read a book before I get swooped away by the craziness. It’s worth giving it a try, if even for a few days.

  11. Tiffany Edmonds says:

    Wow, it’s like you saw my life right now, lol. This is a great post. It is really difficult juggling so many projects with limited time, as you know, and I find paring down does help keep structure (The three Cs are golden.) Thanks for your posts; they keep us sane and on the right track.

  12. Ark says:

    2 and 4. Yes yes!!
    There’s certain projects I work on that I gotta get in the zone for. Sketching and programming are 2 I find really difficult to work on and keep active in a conversation. Anything beyond a general grunt as a reply to a question kinda pulls me outta the headspace.
    A lot of what I do requires working at screens for good lengths of time but there’s definitely a kinda satisfying release to giving yerself a breather, even for an hour or so.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Ark,

      Thanks for your comment. I work online, too (obviously), and I’m starting to realize how much I need to balance my work with getting outside and moving around a bit. Those short breathers are so important.

  13. Laura says:

    This article is so true! I was wondering if other multipotentialites were like me too, and so it seems. I’m very sensible to screens – spending too much time on my computer or my phone, even if it’s for a purpose that I find useful (getting informed on what’s going on in the world, doing a creative activity) just makes me sick at some point, and sadly it often turns into disgust with myself altogether. I can even get sick with a book (you know these books that you want to binge-read in one night…). I just need the outside world and its stimuli so much! As much as locking up in my own little world to learn and create can be a relief, it also can quickly become a prison.

    That’s also part of the reason why I’ve never created a blog although I’d love to. I’m afraid of the high maintenance it requires and all this time I’ll have to spend on the Web (I also used to spend WAY too much time on the computer during my childhood on all kind of forums and websites and I decided I’d never go down that road again). What do you think about this issue? How do you deal with it?

    • Emilie says:

      Laura,

      I’ve actually become less and less interested in technology over the 6 years I’ve been blogging. It’s kind of funny. I still love my work, but like I mentioned in my reply to Ark, I’m finding that I need to balance screen time with being out in the world, preferably in nature. Also, over time you kind of figure out how to make the most of your blogging time so that you get into the flow faster and don’t waste extra time online (for the most part). :)

  14. “Connecting, Consuming, Creating.” Emilie I love it! I’ve never allowed technology to be a distraction (am a FB new-bee & infrequent poster, and am sticking with my old pre-paid with no internet connection). Even without getting caught in consuming so much info, it’s still challenging at times to get stuff done, as the minutiae of life can get in the way. The best method for me to manage my various life portfolios is the old fashioned way – open an A4 notebook and divide the double page spread into 8 boxes with headings that capture my projects, then lists underneath of what I need, want, or hope to do. The strong visual keeps everything on the agenda and enables me to work gently toward achieving my goals, in my own time frames, at my own pace, and around other firmer commitments like paid work. Thanks so much for your awesome blog, and your great presentations at ProBlogger here on the Gold Coast in September! xxx

  15. Kevin Wood says:

    I like this, super useful. I’ve found that disconnecting from all “not-absolutely-essential” online apps, and social media, limiting computer time, and just being in nature for a few hours are the only things that help to reduce overwhelm and overstimulation.

  16. Dr Valerie says:

    Thank you!
    I always wanted PRADA… you gave it to me!
    Priorities
    Rules of C
    Abbreviate
    Disconnect
    Assistance

    I love my new PRADA! Thanks Emily!