Information overload

For the most part I have enjoyed working from home. It’s great to be able to get up a little later each day, and to have the full kitchen’s worth of food to consider whenever you fancy a snack. I can have the radio on to give me some background noise and can immediately dive out of the door for a walk once work is done.

I have even been around for all my parcel deliveries – funnily enough.

But some parts are hard. I miss my colleagues. I miss wandering down to the coffee bar or catching up with a colleague who happens to be in the building or passing my desk. I miss our Friday ritual of a fish and chip lunch and the occasional pint in the fab local (Gin and Beer It) after work.

The other thing that’s really challenging is information overload. I am friendly, chatty guy (well I do work in communications) and I am also an early adopter when it comes to new tech. This is usually a positive, but has led to a situation, in lockdown, where I am utterly bombarded by notifications.

This week, while writing some content for Mental Health Awareness Week, I stepped away from my phone, and logged out of the network on my laptop. The first thing I noticed was just how peaceful I found being unplugged. I was more productive and I am sure the quality of my work was improved.

The second thing was that when I logged back on, I had countless emails and a number of other notifications.

When I picked up my phone, my heart sank. I had a hundred WhatsApp messages from a dozen chats, I had ten new notifications from our work planning app, and I had work messages in our Teams app.

I realised that had I been connected to my phone the whole time, I’d have been distracted by these messages throughout. It’s no wonder I thought my work had improved!

The trouble is, I think it is part of a communications professional’s job to be connected. If someone needs us, then they expect to be able to get us. And I want to stay connected to my colleagues and friends, whenever I can. After all, they’re not passing my desk anymore.

So where does this leave me?

I actually think the solution is quite simple. In fact, a word I used above sums it up.

I unplug.

This means:

  • I move my phone away when I am working on a specific task or piece of writing
  • I turn off notifications from applications I don’t need to see (the Strava kudos and Instagram likes are the worst culprits here)
  • I choose a time to respond to emails and messages
  • I ignore work notifications when I am not at work (turning Trello and Teams notifications off)
  • I accept I won’t see every message or read every notification (after all, I don’t try and read all of Twitter, do I?)

On top of this, I make sure to get my daily exercise. I have found that a long walk after work, with Craig Charles in the background, really does help me unwind.

I don’t think any of these things is rocket science. But it took me nine weeks of lockdown to realise and implement them. So, if you’re struggling, why not have a think about whether you’ve got information overload?

Another picture of Oscar, but his walks are the key to my wellbeing.

If you have, you could do worse than follow these tips and even connect with the Comms Unplugged community. Their annual festival promotes mental health and wellbeing by encouraging us all to unplug. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a network of like-minded, friendly and caring people who are keen to support each other.

The community has more than proven its worth over the last few weeks – with discussions, podcasts, and webinars covering every aspect of wellbeing and mindfulness.

Take a look at www.commsunplugged.co.uk or find them at @commsunplugged on Twitter.

Published by Ian Curwen

Communications professional and a bit of a foodie that wants to travel more. Sharing my observations on life.

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