How to dodge information overload
LIFESTYLE | May 1, 2018

How to dodge information overload

Is your phone the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you put down at night? Is your life punctuated by noisy notifications?

Ever find yourself obsessively refreshing those news pages? Or automatically checking up on social media every few minutes?

Do you lose hours down forum rabbit holes of gossipy Meghan and Harry tidbits or scurrilous sports rumours?

Find yourself distracted by your phone when you should be spending quality time with family or friends? Or antsy if you can't check your phone for some reason?

Do you, like most of us, feel that it's time to step away from the screens and get back in touch with real life?

If the answer's yes, we've rounded up tried and tested methods to help get your online and offline activities back into balance – and help save energy by cutting out some unnecessary, and actually unhealthy, gadget usage. Let us know what works for you!

>> Switch off all non-essential notifications

PING! BOING! ZZZP! CRASH! Is there any wonder we feel a little nutty when our phones, tablets and computers are constantly yelling for another piece of our attention?

"Quick, quick! Uncle Barry has uploaded a photo album of their trip to Chessington World of Adventures."

"URGENT! Email from your bank telling you their systems will be offline for two hours tonight."

"Emergency stations! Someone has TWEETED!"

It's exhausting. Let's give our poorly attention spans a break by switching off all but the most essential notifications. Here's how to do that for Android, iOS, Windows10 and Mac.

>> Install productivity apps

It's happened to most of us – suddenly discovering you've gone into autopilot and opened Reddit or Facebook when you thought you were just going to quickly check the weather or similar. It truly is an addiction! To break these subconscious screen habits, we'll need some extra help. Step in the productivity apps...

Productivity apps can be installed on your computer, added as an extension on your Internet browser and downloaded to your phone. All generally work on the same principles: you list the apps, sites or programmes that you use compulsively (be honest now!) and then choose to:

1) monitor how often you open and how long you spend on certain compulsive apps, software or sites

2) block completely. Yes, you, Candy Crush!

3) add a maximum time usage limit, say allowing yourself half an hour on social media per day

4) or, limit activity to specific hours, for example, blocking access to certain sites within work, study, family or sleeping time.

Some productivity apps can be set to cut access to the Internet completely if you feel the need to go cold turkey with your digital detox.

>> Declutter your digital life

Do you use the Internet or does the Internet use you? Clearing out unwanted or perhaps too tempting (Groupon!) subscriptions and apps will help you streamline your online life. Get in, get what you need, get out...

To declutter your email subscriptions: You can use a service such as, however there has been some controversy over how such organisations handle the data they collect during their scanning activities. Safer, if perhaps more time consuming, just search on 'unsubscribe' in your email inbox and click through to stop those newsletters manually.

To declutter your devices: Here's how to check which apps are installed on your Android and iOS devices, and to delete those that are no longer useful, or never were. With just a few clicks you can free up space and time for more important activities, like sitting in the sunshine watching the world go by, or studying a language, or planning a trip of a lifetime, or raising money for a good cause, or ... you fill in the blank.

How do you steer clear of information overload? Share your tips and comments with us via Twitter and Facebook!

>> The joyous habit of buying only what we really need

>> Take the Rubbish Diet Challenge and slim your bin