How Being Organized and Setting Goals Can Control Information Overload

Brain Overload
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Brain Overload by Lauren Boucher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

Is there such a thing as adult-onset ADD?  If so, I really think I have it.  Working on the computer most of the day, I find that I have an extremely hard time focusing on a task because of all of the information coming into my inbox, across my Twitter feed, or my Google+ account.  I find myself exhausted at the end of the day and all I’ve done is sit at my desk.  Wading through all of the information available to find things useful to me, while trying to balance everything else in life can lead to serious brain overload.

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way because the last few conferences I’ve been to have featured  sessions on staying focused, organized, and dealing with the information onslaught that happens every time you sit down in front of your computer, device, or tv.  I’d like to share with you some of the strategies and resources I’ve found to help you deal with information overload.

Slife: Have you ever sat down at your computer or jumped on your iPad to do something really quickly, then looked at the clock and realize you’ve been there for an hour or more?  Yeah, that happens to me all the time too.  Setting goals and priorities is one of the keys to staying focused.  Slife is a neat little tool that tracks what you’re doing while you’re on your computer.  By tracking your digital movements, you are able to see what you’re really spending time on.  If these activities don’t align with your goals and priorities, you can make adjustments.  You can choose from a limited, free account that only allows you to track activity within applications and on websites, or Plus and Premium accounts that allow you to set up activities, like checking email, then set time goals.  Slife will track these for you and let you know how you’re doing.  Check out all the features of Slife here.

GoalForIt:  Speaking of setting goalswithout setting SMART goals, both short and long term, we’re really setting ourselves up for failure.  What are SMART goals?  They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  GoalForIt is a free website that allows you to set goals, create chores and behavior charts, and to do lists.  GoalForIt will send you emails periodically to remind you of your goals and to allow you to self-check your progress.

OnlineStopWatch and Google Calendar:  Time Management is a major key to staying focused.  If you can give yourself specific time parameters to complete certain tasks, you’ll find you get so much more done during the day.  You can use online tools like the Online Stop-Watch or even your Google Calendar to do this.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent time each morning laying out my day on my Google Calendar.  I get email alerts and dings on my iPad and iPhone when I’m supposed to be doing a certain task.  When my husband and I wrote out a budget rather than winging it each month, it felt like we got raises.  I have found that writing out my days on my calendar has made it seem like I’ve had more time in the day.  Try it!

Gmail:  Another strategy that I have found extremely useful is to set times during the day where I check my email.  I have set a time in the morning and early afternoon to check it.  If it is not time to check email, I make sure I have closed it on my computer.  I also turned off the email alerts on my iPad and iPhone so I’m not tempted to look and see who sent me something.  I just finished a post on setting up filters in your Gmail to control the influx of student emails.  Using filters to control incoming emails from other teachers, blog/website subscriptions, etc. will also serve to keep you organized and avoid that information overload.

My next post, What Is Content Curation and Why Is It Important, focuses on ways to curate and organize all of the digital content that may come your way.