Thursday, August 6, 2009

Information overload

You are living in a world that is exploding with information. All you need are a couple of keywords and search engines such as Google and you can have a huge amount of information at your fingertips. Information overload occurs when you have too much information but are using too little of it.

Here are some symptoms you may experience when you are overwhelmed with information:
● Stress. No matter how much research you have done, you have a nagging feeling that some vital information is still missing. A classic study at Georgetown University found that continuous stress can decrease your IQ by as high as 10 points.
● Poor memory. You cannot recall important names, dates and details.
● Worry. You worry, get distracted and daydream easily. You have problems concentrating on one task and procrastinate over your tasks.

Here is how you can manage information better:
● Decide on the purpose of the information you want to acquire.
● Plan and organise your work so that managing information is more streamlined and effective. Get rid of clutter on your table as it will distract you.
● Control the flow of information. Put aside any information that is not relevant to the task you are doing. Fight against the temptation to read everything.
● Say “no” to people who rob your of your time. These include chatlines, idle gossip and surfing the Net aimlessly.
● Share information where necessary.
● Focus on one task at a time and complete it before embarking on another.

Apart from the above, there are ways in which you can enhance the your memory powers and retain large amounts of information:
● Listen to Baroque musicThis is the music written by 17th and 18th century composers whose tempo ranges from 55 to 65 beats per minute. It has a frequency of 500 hertz that harmonises with our brain waves, causing our bodies to become relaxed and our minds alert. Composers in this musical era include Bach, Albinoni, Vivaldi, Corelli, Handel, Telemann and Pachelbel. Iowa State University concluded that listening to Baroque music alone can increase memory retention by 26 per cent. Dr Georgi Lozanov used Baroque music to induce adult learners to a state of alert relaxation.
● Use music as a memory aidRecently, the University of Leeds conducted a memory study of more than 3,000 people of all different ages from 69 countries. They were asked to recall the music of the iconic British pop group, The Beatles.
Most responses were from people aged between 55 and 65. The university concluded that music is one of the most powerful memory triggers.
● Up your reading speedAn average person has a reading speed of 200 to 250 words per minute (wpm). According to the United Nations, a literate person has a reading speed of 400 wpm. The world’s top speed-reader, Sean Adam of the United States, can read at the rate of 3,850 wpm.
Readers read for various reasons — to gather general information, to solve a problem, for study, work or leisure.
Dwight Eisenhowler, the 34th American president, could read up to four books a day. The 35th American president, John F Kennedy increased his reading speed after attending a workshop. As a result, speed-reading is a standard programme in the White House.
Research shows that slow reading is caused by three main reasons. First, people tend to read word by word. Besides causing eye-strain, it is slow and boring.
Second, some people subvocalise when they read. This reduces your reading rate to your talking rate. Also, the muscular activity tires you out.
Third, re-reading earlier sections wastes time and slows down your pace.
If you can avoid the abovementioned, your reading speed will double or treble without any loss of comprehension.

Here are four ways to increase your reading speed:
● Read groups of words. Reduce pausing as you read. Have a shorter fixation at the group of words.
● Minimise sub-vocalisation. Reading either aloud or silently to yourself is a habit which can be stopped.
● Reduce regression. When you read, do not go backwards. Keep focused on finishing what you are reading.
● Learn to concentrate and your reading speed will improve. Select the most productive time of day for reading.
Avoid reading after your meals. Organise your materials before your reading. Lastly, cultivate a positive attitude — that you will learn something after you read.

— Source: Straits Times/Asia News Network
Article by Michael Lum, who trains executives and students in accelerated learning, speed reading and memory techniques.

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