How to Deal with the Coronavirus Information Overload – Part 1 of 2

How to Deal with the Coronavirus Information Overload – Part 1 of 2

This is a two part post.The first half describes the overload of coronavirus news and how we can manage it, in general. The second half is a birds-eye view of its practical application in a task manager.

The Overload

COVID-19 has been life altering. So much of our society has been impacted. Our health care workers, hospitals, grocery stores, supply chains, businesses, schools, families, and more are all hit hard.

For those of you at the front lines, I say, “Thank you,” a hundred times over.  For those of you remaining indoors, I also say, “Thank you,” a hundred times over.

We live with the fear of deadly illness knocking at the door. Some of us are trying to manage by reading and watching the news.

Many useful questions come to mind: How has it impacted the world? How about my country? How are our leaders managing? What’s going on at the hospitals now? How is my neighbor doing? How do I know if I have it? What can I do?

Meanwhile, every moment presents new information. Scientific, political, statistics, and human interest stories are everywhere all waiting to be consumed. But at some point, reading and watching more and more seems to fuel anxiety beyond what would be helpful.

But when do we stop reading? When do we stop looking out for eye witness videos? Our appetite for new material can be voracious when fueled by such strong emotion.

There is no end to which you could get involved. In fact, you could decide to join the fight, studying textbooks about viruses, reading every scientific article published, hoping to see something the experts “out there” haven’t yet considered. You could go beyond reading and start volunteering, calling hospitals, making and distributing home-made masks, and more.

A Limit of Attention

The problem is that we have a limited amount of attention. Every one of us has battles to fight. Family and personal safety, relationships, work and livelihood, and the general-need-to-relax-for-a-moment are all important. Constant tension can be quite problematic for mind or muscle.

Give the Worry a Space

One useful method of reducing the attention overload is to give the worry its own space. In other words, create a task or project to read, study, or engage the news to whatever degree works for you. By setting up a space where you can store the study and the actions, you have a better tendency to contain it.

You can worry; you can be concerned. But you also have a way to set it aside and even enjoy a moment. The virus is already a raging fire outside. If we can at least contain it for ourselves, we’ll likely be better able to decide and act meaningfully for any of the battles we individually wage.

One way of doing so is with a sheet of paper or a computer file. For example, consider:

  1. Writing down, on a sheet of paper or bookmarking in a folder, the websites you want to visit repeatedly. Useful links may be to the CDC’s website, your city’s website, or a general news feed.
  2. Creating a second bookmark folder for those sites you’d like to follow up.

Every day, visit these lists.  Clear out the first. Consider following up on one or more of the second. Add and adjust as needed.  When you’re done with visiting the lists for the day, set it aside. They will wait for tomorrow.

Of course, this is not fool-proof, myself being the fool.  While this works for the most part, I still find myself searching now and again. But I have found that it has helped in reducing the continual need search for updates.

If you are interested in seeing a birds-eye view example of how to translate this into a task manager, visit the sister post.

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