Dealing with Communication Overload

29 January 2009, by A. Cedilla

The messages come from every possible electronic and non-electronic source:? e-mail, voice mail, faxes, FedEx, registered mail — through your Blackberry and cell phone, on Skype. You receive even more during meetings, be they teleconference, video conference, Web conference, or the good old-fashioned face to face kind.

Even before we get to the office in the morning and, for many of us, well into the evening, we’re flooded with incoming communications from these sources and more. It seems as though during every moment someone is trying to inform, teach, solicit to, solicit from, question, update, delegate to, warn, disagree with and sometimes even entertain us.

This tidal wave of incoming communication can be overwhelming, leaving us feeling fatigued, irritable and distracted. It can negatively impact everything from our work performance to how we interact with our families and friends. It can result in something as minor as forgetting to buy milk on the way home to as major as being involved in an automobile accident.

In other words, communication overload can be harmful to our health.

While for the most part we are unable to control or lessen the amount of incoming messages we receive each day, we can develop strategies for dealing with them more effectively rather than letting them engulf us. Incorporating the following tips can enable you to nip communications overload in the bud:

1. Schedule your time better in advance.
Are you checking your e-mail between every other task you perform? Break that habit by trying to limit your trips to the inbox to specific time periods during the day, such as an hour at the beginning and end of the day, or 10 minutes at the top or bottom of each hour. You’ll be amazed by how much more time you’ll have to accomplish things that matter more to you.

2. Cloak your instant messaging screen name or, if that’s not possible, put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your instant messenger once in a while to carve out some uninterrupted time.

During this time, let your phone calls go to voice mail and text messages go temporarily unanswered. These actions are particularly important during times when you’re interacting with people face to face; except in rare circumstances, live interaction should always take precedence over technological devices. Watch how your interpersonal relationships both at work and home soar when you begin to give people more undivided attention.

3. Learn to determine and rank the urgency of each message you receive, regardless of means.
Delete, file or ignore unimportant ones, and devote as much time as possible to only those that pertain to pressing or essential issues. When you look back on your day, you’ll discover that you’ll experience a greater sense of accomplishment when you do this.

Taking a few proactive measures to confront communication overload is so much healthier than multitasking your way into a state of exhaustion or allowing incoming communications to control your life. Not only that, but you’ll also see immediate improvements in your work, home life and overall sense of satisfaction as well.

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