Paralysis By Analysis and Information Overload: My Wins And Fails

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Today I’d like to touch one of the drawbacks of living in the Internet age. This is what people call “Paralysis by analysis” or over-analyzing. For me personally, this problem mostly stems from  information overload.

These things have always been  the biggest obstacles while learning English and preparing for IELTS exam for me. I guess, many of you face the same problems every day.  Do you?  I’ll try to share some of my thoughts, fails and good results in my attempts to improve my situation. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas how to  improve yours.

Paralysis by Analysis

What it Is?

What paralysis by analysis is was probably explained on the Internet hundreds of times. People from different background and different goals suffer from this phenomena. I hardly believe that there is a person who 100% free from this disease.

By the way, you can find well-written articles on this topic here and here.

So this is how it usually happens with me. As probably most of you, I have access to the Internet, which means I can immediately go to google and ask any question, whether it “sample questions and answers for IELTS speaking part 1” or something else. Each query offers us hundreds and even thousands answers and links. This is both good and bad.

Especially in the past, when I was preparing for the exam, I used to spend too much time browsing web in search of “best answer’ or “the best resource”. In most cases, I ended up that having information overload.  I got too overwhelmed by numerous opportunities but took no action, got stuck. Instead of moving  forward I used to keep  digging into subject, deeper and deeper, trying to learn, analyze and find every available  web resource.

From my own experience, I can list number of typical examples of what happens because of information overload. Most likely you will find several thing that happens to you regularly:

  • Too many tabs. I start searching for particular piece of information (for example, sample answer for IELTS question) using google and open too many additional tabs in my browser. Sometimes as many as 15-20 tabs.
  • Shiny objects. I can seamlessly slide to something  that not related  to my current task or information I was looking for (interesting  article about other topic, new blog, video, podcast or tool that I came across. There are so many shiny objects  that caught may our attention while we browsing the Internet!
  • Forgetting about time. I don’t track time that I spent. Before you know it you see that 40 or 60 min have gone and all you’ve done is opened a bunch of tabs in your browser 🙁
  • Social media. I am a regular person. Like most of  us,  I often get distracted by social media. Although I noticed that recently I spend much less time in social websites, I should admit – I can do better at it. I have accounts in Twitter, Facebook, Vkontakte, Instagram, Google+  and Youtube. I don’t use them all on every day basis. However, some days I find myself regretting that I spent too much time in Facebook or VK.

Library Analogy

To be honest, there is  podcast episode, which have triggered something in me. I really liked the analogy between this phenomena called “paralysis by analysis” and library, which has been used by hosts of the podcast. I can explain it shortly here:

Typically, when сome  to library, there are thousands of books all around us. However, we don’t take every book that seemed interesting. Instead we ask the librarian for a particular book and go straight to that place. The Internet is “library” with thousands and even millions of books (websites and pages). If used properly, With all that  mass of information,  it can be huge source of knowledge.

On the other hand, when we get distracted and lose focus, it  turns out that The web is time-sucking machine. Tens of minutes and even hours are spent daily on unproductive or completely useless things.

What is the decision? I cannot give universal answer. It definitely depends on you.

  • “What can I do to avoid information overload?”
  • What  things hinder your learning and your progress?

We all different. In this articleI just wanted to arise these questions, because I know from my own language learning experience how difficult it is to find time for learning and  practice. I am very much familiar with such things as procrastination, doubts, perfectionism, fears and lack of discipline. They can be very harmful for what we trying to achieve, whether it’s IELTS 7.0 score or building successful blog.

What Worked Out For Me

Here are some techniques I use to get things done and cope with the problems I mentioned above.

Some of these methods I learned from books and articles I’ve read. In some cases I just try to reflect and ask myself questions: what can I do to fix the situation? How can I cope with my perfectionism or how can I get rid of distractions?

  • Weekly to do lists. I’ve doing weekly to do lists for the last 5-6 months by now. I have a notebook. Each Monday morning I sit down, ask myself a question “What are 5-6 most important things I need to do within this week?”. Then I write down 5-6 bullet points. This technique helps to visualize me my goals. Each morning I open my and see what I must focus on.
  • Habits. “Daily actions builds habits”.  I try to break bad habits and develop habits which help me to achieve my goals. For example, I managed to get used to new schedule. I go to bed by 10 pm and wake up around 5 am almost every day. I try to not to check my mail and browse Internet until certain time in the morning. I used to spend much less time in social media. What I still struggle with is going to bed by 9-9.30 pm. I also tend to spend too much time while performing tasks.

Tossing out your old beliefs and carving out new ones is worth the life you’ll be creating

  • Pomodoro. If you don’t know what pomodoro technique is, here are couple of useful articles about pomodoro: “The Comodoro Technique:Is It Right For You?“, “The Comodoro Technique“. Keep in mind that it is not for everyone. If you use “deep work” approach it is probably not for you. However, personally, I find this method useful. I usually have multiple tasks to do. Similarly, if you need to practice each part of exam (listening, reading, writing and  speaking) pomodoro approach will help you to track time and schedule your time. I often fall into doing too much instead doing just enough. I believe that pomodoro helps me to cope with this issue.
  • Perfectionism. I can spent entire hour doing something, that, honestly, could be done in 20 min. For example, initially, it took me almost 2 jours to write an essay for IELTS task 2. As I tame passed, I’ve realized that it’s important to use time wisely. I focus more on working effectively and more regularly rather than simply harder.
  • Exercise. There are so many benefits to exercise. One of the biggest findings for me, was seeing how  habits work. I’ve been doing pushups on everyday basis over the last half a year. I feel much more energized and look more fit. The most important thing is that as I see these positive  changes I realize that I can do the same thing wit language learning. For example, if I speak in English regularly, I” be fluent in 6 or 8 months. As simple as that.
  • Role model. Having other people as a role model, learning from others has been huge for me. For example, I see Paul Minor’s blog growing faster and faster although he faces the same problems. We all have access to tons of free information and 24/7 access to web. However, some people get results, while other…keep watching youtube or TV.

Take Action

I tried to do my best and shared with you some of my thoughts and experience on dealing  information overload and struggling with taking action.  I know that I am not very good at writing. That’s why, every time I write something I try to find  interesting materials created by that other people. There are so many talented and wise individuals.

Watch these two videos. They are completely different in terms of presentation. However, they both make great points and definitely worth watching.

I hope it wasn’t too boring article. I just wanted to share my takeaways from my almost four-year language learning experience and almost a year of working on my 2 online projects.

If you struggle from such things as information overload and  “paralysis by analysis”, take some time, sit down and try to understand and list the things that distract you or your. Once you know them you will be able to find a solution. There is always something you can do to improve situation. I remember that feeling when you realize how much work you need to do to get ready for IELTS. It is totally ok. Keep your pace and just practice regularly.

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