Author: Joanna Lubowiecka
As human beings living in 2023, we are literally bombarded with information from the very beginning of our day, to the last minute. The data-to-process-bomb-journey starts with turning off the alarm clock on our phones, to immediately check if there is any new notification on a display. As the day passes, we are constantly filled with information on news platforms or radio, pictures and stories on social media, conversation at home and work, phone and video games, and many more that could be added here.
Apart from the health consequences, the concerning part here is that we are on the 100% brain usage mode from minute one to the last minute of our days. Everyday. We consume so much data every day that our brains and bodies are more tired than ever.
There are many studies and statistics showing that we are exposed to overwhelming information stream everyday:
"Just as the amount of data we need to process has gone up, so too have cases of what’s called information overload. This condition is caused by our brain trying to consume and process too much data, which leads to low mental energy and stress. The effects of information overload range from mood swings to indecisiveness and can affect mental, emotional, and physical well-being."
The problem is that we soak up so much information every day that we process more data in a weekend than a person did a few hundred years ago for his entire life.
“Today, each of us individually generates more information than ever before in human history. Our world is now awash in an unprecedented volume of data. The trouble is, our brains haven’t evolved to be able to process it all”
What does it mean for us?
This simply means that we are pelted with a waterfall of information and many times we don't have even a second to stop it. As partners, family members, employees, influencers, volunteers and so on, we don't have time to sit back and simply enjoy ourselves and the moment we are in.
Our minds are filled with thoughts from the past and the future, but we have no time to pause and be aware of the presence. This phenomenon is described very well in the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. Going beyond his approach, I would expand it by adding the personal retrospective activity as a complement to this idea.
We talk so much about continuous improvement at work, but few apply it to their personal lives. Having time just for yourself to reflect on the last day, week or month is so simple, yet so profitable, you won't believe it until you try it.
How can we do it?
There are multiple ways to achieve it. Most important thing is that you are “alone” and no one or nothing is disturbing you for at least a few minutes. It can be done by just sitting on the balcony or going for a walk. You can go running or even hiking with friends (we all know that at some point after a few calories burnt, we stop talking with our companion for a while). Taking a car for a single ride is also one of the options. It really doesn't matter where and how, it matters that there is not much external interference. Going into nature by default is a good choice. With limited options in the city, using the nearby cafeteria and putting the classical music on your headphones also do the work.
Once you are just with yourself, think like a Scrum Master. It's important to balance the negatives with the positives, just as you did with Sprint Retrospective. Being objective and blameless is crucial.
Scan yourself and your latest actions and reactions. Think about what you did well for the last couple of days. Where you can say you are proud of yourself, or situations that made you feel good. Reward yourself and recognize achievements. It doesn't matter if it was a small or big thing. Everything counts, even being nice to someone you made smile, helping someone at work or lending a glass of sugar to a neighbor. Overall, the positive outcome matters.
After all those appreciations, think what went wrong and could be done better. Don’t think about the negative things as ultimate failure but a place for correction. Reflect on what you could do better and act on it! Work on the tasks until they are gone from your life board. When you digest all the pros and cons you've thought of, facing a similar situation next time will be better managed and streamlined on your part. This realization will make your private life better every time you do this exercise. Try it once, and you'll never stop again.
P.S. Funny enough, I came up with the article idea while hiking alone and doing my own, private-life-week retrospective. Picture attached is from this hike - Interlaken to St. Beatus Caves.