In 1989, Richard Saul Wurman coined the phrase, information anxiety, to describe the experience that many of us are feeling today; when we are overloaded with data that adds little or no meaning to our lives.
As Michael Carrol points out in The Mindful Leader, reading any weekday edition of the New York Times provides you with more information than the average person would have come across in an entire lifetime in seventeenth-century England. Add to that our barrage of data from email, the web, television, etc. and there's no wonder our brains are freaking out.
Studies have shown that thousands of people are being diagnosed with ADT - attention deficit trait - each and every year. Our modern office life is turning executives into frenzied underachievers.
"Unlike ADD, a neurological disorder that has a genetic component and can be aggravated by environmental and physical factors, ADT springs entirely from the environment," writes Ned Hallowell in his HBR article from January 2005. It's well worth reading.
Hallowell's tips for Controlling ADT:
>> Get adequate sleep
>> Watch what you eat. Avoid simple, sugary carbohydrates, moderate your intake of alcohol, add protein, stick to complex carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains, fruit)
>> Exercise at least 30 minutes every other day
>> Take a daily multivitamin and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement
>> Do all you can to create a trusting, connected work environment
>> Have a friendly, face-to-face talk with a person you like every four to six hours
>> Break large tasks into smaller ones
>> Keep a section of your work space or desk clear at all times
>> Each day, reserve some "think time" that's free from appointments, email, and phone calls
>> Before you leave work each day, create a short list of three to five items you will attend to the next day
>> Try to act on, file or toss every document you touch
>> Don't let papers accumulate
>> Pay attention to the times of the day when you feel that you are at your best; do you most important work then, and save the rote work for other times
>> Do whatever you need to do to work in a more focused way: add background music, walk around, and so on
>> Ask a colleague or an assistant to help you stop talking on the phone, emailing, or working too late
When You Feel Overwhelmed
>> Slow down
>> Do an easy rote task: Reset your watch, write a note about a neutral topic, read a few dictionary definitions...
>> Move around: Go up and down a flight of stairs or walk briskly
>> Ask for help, delegate a task, or brainstorm with a colleague. In short, do not worry alone.