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Ouch! My Brain Hurts!

Cut through information overload

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Cut through information overload

It happens slowly but surely. Your eyes burn from the strain, your lower backaches, you just threw a file at your partner. Your brain hurts. You haveinfoius overloadius, better known as the newest virus to hit thestreets: information overload.

In one study cited in David Shenk's book, Data Smog: Surviving theInformation Glut (HarperCollins, $24, 800-242-7737), two-thirds of businessmanagers surveyed said they have tension with colleagues, loss of jobsatisfaction and strained personal relationships as a result of too muchinformation. In this age of 24-hour news channels and the Internet, however,information overload isn't even close to going away.

So how do you deal with the info glut before you're found unconscious beneath amountain of magazines and newspapers, one hand still on your mouse? Here'sShenk's advice on how to dig yourself out:

1. Get out of denial. "The biggest part of the problem is that alot of people don't recognize it or give it much attention," explains Shenk."There are undeniable advantages to getting more information, but there arealso things you give up. You need to look for what those disadvantages are ifthey're not obvious."

2. Slow down. Take time to digest the information you'redevouring. Read an entire magazine or a book instead of taking everything insound bites and Web news briefs.

3. Variety is the spice. On the same note, don't let yourself getsucked into the common trap of receiving your news from only one source--be ite-mail, the Web, CNN or The Wall Street Journal. Lift your head out ofthe sand once in awhile to look beyond your area of expertise and take in thebig picture.

4. You can't take it with you. At least not all of it. Whenyou're deciding what information to file and what to throw away, ask yourselfthese questions: Is it vital? Can it be easily retrieved if I don't keep it?

Above everything, give yourself a break. Allow yourself time to escapeinformation. Create spaces outside of your business where you can't becontacted. Leave the cell phone and laptop at the office and take time forinfo-free relaxation.