The Anxiety Pit of T. M. I.
by C.K. Thomas
As if you hadn’t noticed, most of us have become deeply embedded in T.M.I. If reading the following seems like just T.M.I., consider this simple, anxiety-busting, five-point rundown for coping with the dilemma of too much information:
- Focus on one thing at a time
- Take a nature break
- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
- Turn off screens one hour before sleep
- Delegate, delegate, delegate
Recently I left town for three months – actually101 days. During that hiatus, I flagged interesting emails, newsletters, and other electronic communications for later. I don’t know when I thought later would be. After all, while this list of 70 or so items accumulated, more recent items continued to arrive. When in heaven’s name did I think I would be able to tackle those “saved for later” items?
As a writer, I used to subscribe to magazines for and about writers. Every article I read in these informative tomes invariably dumped me into an anxiety pit brought on by focusing on the myriad ways of becoming a successful writer. I had to cancel all my subscriptions to help myself get back to the business of slapping words on a page, rather than slapping myself for not operating as the magazine pundits prescribed. Eventually those pages turned into books, and presently I have actual copies of those publications residing on my bookshelves, books actually written by me. Wow!
I once again fell into an anxiety pit while doing research for this blog post. I made the mistake of popping the search term “information overload 2015” into Google. Yowza!! It seems humankind had been worried about T.M.I. long before we became information victims of the technology age. If you’d like to know more about the dire predictions issued each time something innovative has happened in the world and what to do about it, here’s a link for you from Wikipedia and another from the Harvard Business Review.
After schlepping my way though a few of the online offerings included in this glut of knowledge about information overload, I came away with a sketchy outline for overcoming the anxiety pit.
First, I’ll focus on only one thing at a time. It has been proven that multitasking produces inferior results.
Second, it has also been proven that nature is a great anxiety buster. Bowing to this scientific revelation, I’ve attuned myself to the mantra, step away from the computer. If only for a few minutes every hour or so, I plan to look out the window at the trees, the garden, and the birds flying around out there, free and unburdened. When the devilishly hot Phoenix weather cools down, I might even venture out for a stroll.
It turns out digital screen use interferes with sleep and thus produces less productivity and more anxiety during the day. Apparently, while sleeping the brain sorts out and makes sense of the input it has received all day. So, thirdly, I need to turn off all digital screen interactivity at least one hour before sleeping.
And that brings me to the fourth point in the anxiety-busting outline. Sort incoming information into categories and relegate time each day to digest high-priority items without concern for the ones relegated to low-priority status.
Fifth, and to my mind foremost, the Harvard Business Review article cited above also suggests delegating as much of social media posting as possible. In my opinion, I need to give my online presence a measure of personal attention, but having someone else take over the bulk of that task makes perfect sense. It will be well worth it if this, along with the other four steps, helps me avoid future nasty falls into the anxiety pit.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.