Balance Archives

Want Clarity? Dump the Information Overload

Most of us are aware that if you eat too much food you won’t be healthy. But how many people think about information in that way? We are constantly bombarded with information, especially in this internet age. I find one of the biggest barriers to having clarity in my life is information overload.

I can physically feel it in my head when I’m getting overloaded with information. If I continue to gorge on more information, my ability to think quickly erodes.

A clear mind is important to me because it plays a big part in the quality of my life. If I don’t have clarity, my decisions aren’t that great which means my life isn’t that great. I want the best life I can have, so I carefully monitor how much information I consume, just like I do with food.

I believe each of us has a different capacity for information just like each of us has a different capacity for food. I know some thin people who can eat way more than I can. If they ate as little as I do, they’d wilt.

So there’s not a hard and fast rule for how much information to take in. My husband reads a lot. He’s a walking encyclopedia. You can ask him nearly any factual question, and he’ll know the answer. I’m the complete opposite. I typically take 4 years to read a non-fiction book. I read a little, then think about it and play with the concepts for a week, or even a month, and then go back for a little more.

My husband’s approach to information isn’t better than mine, and mine isn’t better than his. They’re just different because each of us processes and uses our information differently.

If I want to be clear headed, I need to consume just the right amount of information for me. I’m especially careful about this when I’m about to do something that takes a lot of clear thinking—making an important decision, taking a class, teaching a class, or writing an article—I make sure that I don’t overload my mind with too much information so I can clearly do what I’m set out to do.

How do you tell when you’re on information overload? And what do you do when you hit that point?

We recently built a house that we intentionally left unlandscaped until we were ready, financially and energetically, to tackle that big project. Last fall, we planted two desert willow trees. I read gardening books. I asked the nursery exactly how to care for them and took detailed notes. One direction that was confusing to me was, “…water to a depth of 2 to 3 feet…” How do I know whether I’ve watered to that depth?

Our first trees. Desert willows.

Last month, we went to another nursery and purchase dwarf butterfly bushes. The woman who helped us seemed very knowledgeable, so I asked her about it. She told us to use the watering directions as a starting point and to adjust the watering based on how the plants respond. What a novel idea!

I’m so used to following rules and not even thinking about whether they are actually working. I spent a lot of research time looking for rules on how to take care of our new plants, thinking all I had to do was follow the rules and things would work out well.

This got me thinking about the role of rules in my life. If rules are made to be broken, what’s the point of having them? I realized with my plants, if I didn’t have any rules on how to water them, I would be clueless on where to start. With the watering directions, I had my starting point. I would implement the directions and watch to see the outcome. Then I’d adjust the “rules” to bring about the results I want.

I find this works well in other areas of my life too. With art, I learn the rules of design and then later tweak them to create pieces that are pleasing to me. In relationships, I take what I’ve learned in books and trainings, then tweak it to fit what’s right in the moment.

I’ve noticed that the more experience I have in a subject matter, the more I go beyond the rules. And if there’s a topic I don’t want to take the time to dig into, following the rules is a great no-brainer option.

Rules are so helpful as a starting point, but to rigidly stick with them without noticing the results defeats the purpose. And definitely don’t let them limit you!

Finding Balance Outside Your Comfort Zone

Of the four phases of doing a project—coming up with the idea, planning, implementing, and maintenance—I feel most comfortable in the idea and planning phases. When I work in a team, I can stay in those comfortable idea and planning roles and let my fellow teammates, who enjoy the other phases, take on the implementing and maintenance roles. It works really well. In fact, I do this with my husband. I like coming up with the ideas and planning. He likes implementing and maintaining.

As I’ve started doing more things on my own, I realized I wanted to experience more of the implementation phase. That’s one of the reasons I took an art class this year. In art you come up with the idea, plan, and implement your work. When I got my degree in biochemistry, it was rare for me to have the opportunity to implement any of my own ideas. My school work was all about learning principles. Even in lab, all we did was follow someone else’s recipe.

As I got into the implementation phase in my art class, I started feeling more balanced. In the past, staying in the idea and planning phases kept me in my head too much. Where implementing was more physical. It actually felt good.

After my art class finished, I decided to keep this balance. We are in the process of landscaping our yard. We live in the desert southwest, and I wanted to create an environmentally-friendly landscape. I’ve studied rain water harvesting and permaculture to come up with ideas, and I have created a really cool design (a plan).

Last week, we worked on implementing my design. My mom asked me, “What part did you do? The supervising?” This is my typical role. But this time, I was hands on in the implementation too. It felt great. I got such a sense of accomplishment.

Landscape west side

Taking the time to implement in ways that feel balanced to me has made me feel more empowered. It doesn’t mean that I won’t delegate in the future. It just means I want to be aware of how much implementation feels right to me.

Is there an area where you’re feeling drawn to step outside your comfort zone? If so, give it a try and see if it gives you a sense of more balance.

Rebalancing Revisited

In my last post, I talked about how I was dealing with a significant increase in my schedule. I ended up putting in, on average, 30 hours a week into a college art class I had signed up for. I tried all the tools I had to rebalance my life, but I was never able to sustain a healthy balance while taking this art class. It just demanded too much of my time.

I did learn something through this process.

I’d been wanting to take this particular class, 2-D Design, for 18 years. I kept putting it off because I knew how demanding a college class could be. Then I got the deadline. The art curriculum in the United States is going through a change, and the 2-D Design class I’ve been wanting to take would no longer be a part of it. I was told that after this school year, it would not be available. I dearly wanted to take this class.

I could have reduced the quality of my work and gotten my assignments done much quicker, but that didn’t fit my personality. I love diving into things and doing the best I can. I would have been miserable not being myself and probably would have learned a lot less during the class.

So I made the decision to dive fully into the class even though it kept me off balance for 16 weeks. But what I learned is how important it is to be in a system that matches who you truly are. The pace of this course totally did not match me.

I have found that there are basically 3 types of systems I can be in.

  1. Ones that are a great fit.
  2. Ones that need altering.
  3. Ones that nothing I can do will ever make them fit.

For me, college art classes are type 2. They need to be altered in order for them to be a good fit. There were aspects of this class that were a good match. I loved being in a creative environment and doing my art. I loved having discussions about artistic principles and connecting with my fellow classmates. And I loved learning new techniques in doing my art.

Music interpretation The Lantern by Beats Antique

To alter the system so that it works best for me, in the future, I will audit college art classes rather than take them for a grade. Auditing means I don’t have to complete any of the assignments. This way I can learn and enjoy the aspects I love. And I can pace my work in a way that fits me.

How well do the systems in your life fit?

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