How to Focus

Too Much Information

Overwhelmed and overloaded by a constant flow of news? The more stuff you filter out, the more you’ll enjoy what you allow in.

Overwhelmed and overloaded by a constant flow of news? The more stuff you filter out, the more you'll enjoy what you allow in.
Overwhelmed and overloaded by a constant flow of news? The more stuff you filter out, the more you'll enjoy what you allow in.

Information overload is a problem for everyone. Those of us with ADD are more susceptible to the tsunami of information that besieges us each day because we get distracted at the drop of a hat.

Deciding what to keep up with is hard for ADDers, who have curious minds and varied interests. The first step is to identify what is important for you to focus on. The choices we make vary greatly from one person to the next, but choices must be made if we are to filter out the abundance of snail mail, e-mail, text messages, voicemails, podcasts, RSS feeds, blogs, and those chats on social media that can distract us all day.

Here are some suggestions that have worked for my clients and me:

Limit what you are saving to read later, by assigning one basket for printed materials, articles, and so on. When the basket gets full, shred or recycle the items that you’ve never looked at. Try to see a pattern to what you are saving and not using. Keep only those items that get grabbed from time to time for a good read.

[Never Enough? Why Your Brain Craves Stimulation]

Scan long articles by reading the first sentence of each paragraph. This gives you the gist of what is happening without sapping time that can be used to, say, pay the bills or cook dinner.

Sign up for mobile news apps that send brief text alerts to your smart phone with breaking news. Major newspapers offer this service free (for iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android systems). You can choose the categories of news you would like to receive, eliminating what you don’t want to be distracted by. The alert gives you a link to click on if you want to read more.

Read a weekly news magazine instead of the daily paper. The Week is my choice and a favorite of many of my clients. Articles are relevant, brief, and cover a range of topics. The editors choose editorials and columns from national and international publications. Aside from ADDitude, it is the most ADD-friendly publication around.

Restrict incoming information! Get your name off junk mailing lists, listservs, and blogs that you never look at. Adjust your mailbox settings to archive anything that is not a priority, but that you think you’ll want to read later. If, at the end of six months, you have not read any of the saved material, stop archiving it and send it to the trash.

[Like a Personal Trainer for Your Brain]

“Old news is no news.” There will always be something newer published on any topic under the sun, so don’t feel that you need to read an item now, when you have other things to do.

Tune in. Catch up on things by listening to radio news stations, podcasts, and books on tape while doing mindless tasks.

Don’t save information. Save only the source to get the information. Clutter is a big distraction, diverting us from getting important things done.

Accept the fact that you can’t keep up with everything. Enjoy being able to say, “No, I haven’t heard anything about that. Fill me in!”

[When Sticky Notes Lose Their Power]

One of my clients, who was chronically late, decided to make “reading time” the reward for getting to places on time. Her strategy was to leave the house or office 15 minutes early for appointments, bringing with her a book or magazine she didn’t have time to read. She has arrived for almost all of our appointments relaxed and smiling, partially due to her reading time in the lobby.

Her reward system backfired only once. When she was 20 minutes late, I sent her a text, asking, “ETA?” Her reply was, “Oooops! Am here in the lobby reading!”