In this day and age, most of us have probably experienced information overload in many (if not all) aspects of our lives. Research on the effects of the overabundance of information estimated that it costs the U.S. economy $900 billion annually. So what can we do to manage information overload as project leaders who need to make timely decisions? In the past, project leaders were trained to make decisions knowing they may not have had all the information. Now, people are forced to make decisions in a sea of too much information, not all of which is relevant or even accurate.
Ways to Manage Information Overload
Adaptive leadership skills can help you successfully navigate the onslaught of information. Certain techniques can help you learn how to distill it down to the pieces that are important for the decisions you need to make as a project leader.
Change Your Mindset
Adopting a new mindset is one of the most crucial ways you can deal with excess information. In the past, information was not as widely accessible. So when it was available, it was often given a great deal of attention. Now, however, we have information at our fingertips at nearly all times. Adjusting how you think about information, i.e., giving it the attention it deserves but not treating it all as imperative, can help you better sift through information without getting caught up in every piece. Being able to zoom in and out to get a more holistic view of a problem can also help leaders hone in on what data is necessary to help inform a specific decision.
Trust Your Network
Relying on and leveraging your network for input or help can dramatically limit the amount of information you have to sift through. If you request others’ input, often you receive information that someone else has already examined or used, so you can move forward with a little more confidence than if you were trying to figure out which of varying pieces of data you have are the most accurate. By widening your network, you also open yourself to a diversity of perspective and opinion, as well as expertise you may not have even been aware of. Having a network you can trust will allow you to see things through a different lens, and analyze and collaborate from a perspective you may not have previously considered.
Explore Technological Options
While information overload has risen over the years, so has the technology to manage it. Consider implementing tools that limit or filter the amount or type of emails that can come through at different times of the day, or using systems to simplify information sharing and collaboration across your organization. Additionally, if something requires immediate attention, encourage your team to call or interact face to face. This can ensure that information doesn’t get lost in translation or misinterpreted. Establishing standards and expectations around how and when key information is communicated is important to keep stakeholders on the same page.
Finding ways to not only make decisions but stay focused during the day in the midst of information overload requires some creative thinking. But adapting your leadership to consider ways to manage how you and your team receive information can help your team operate at its highest level of productivity.