Every student experiences information overload at some point.
As subjects get more complex and assignments start piling up, it is unavoidable.
However, students who struggle consistently with information overload may not experience academic success because they don’t know how to assimilate the volume of information they’re receiving.
As a Learning Specialist, I’ve worked with children and their families for over 35 years.
In my course, The ABCs of Academic Success, there’s a series of steps for parents to follow to help reduce information overload for your child and help them thrive academically.
These easy-to-follow steps apply whether they are physically in school or learning virtually.
A student who struggles with information overload often underperforms due to receiving too much information at one time.
The sheer volume of content received is temporarily overwhelming.
It may feel as if a circuit breaker shuts down and your child may become too exhausted to continue processing additional information.
This inability to absorb and process content, information and instructions received from a teacher in class can fuel stress and anxiety, which further impedes your child’s ability to assimilate material.
Under moments of anxiety and panic, the brain becomes unable to form the neural connections needed to create and maintain the memories of what your child is learning.
These feelings block access to higher executive functioning in the frontal lobe of the brain.
So here are 3 easy ways your child can resolve information overload.
3 Best Solutions for Students Who Struggle with Information Overload to Achieve Academic Success
1. Overcome Information Overload to Achieve Academic Success by Breaking the Task into Smaller Bits
Imagine having to eat an entire cake whole.
Then imagine having to eat more than one whole cake.
Just the idea seems uncomfortable, overwhelming and impossible, right?
If your child is experiencing information overload, the influx of new material coming their way might feel a bit like this.
It’s almost like a deluge they can barely keep up with, let alone understand, absorb and respond to.
They may well be able to eat the whole cake by themselves the first time – but would still need to eat it piece by piece, bite by bite.
In order to break down the intimidating volume of information into manageable segments, I recommend the strategy commonly referred to as “Smash the Task.”
Breaking assignments down into a series of smaller tasks, each with their own deadline, can prove very helpful as compared to working on intensive projects without any particular roadmap of how to complete them.
Conducting classes or study sessions at home in small 15-20 minute sections can help reduce information overload because it is aligned with how the brain learns.
The great news is that being able to check off those smaller sections as completed releases a chemical in your child’s brain called dopamine.
This is known as the motivation molecule and creates the desire to do more of what makes your child feel good.
“Smashing the task” into a set of smaller tasks during class or at-home studying, with breaks in between, allow students to pace themselves as they learn.
Overall, the brain does not learn well when focusing for long stretches of time.
In fact, neuroscientists have established that the longer the time spent learning without taking a break and without making an attempt to recall or retain what is learned, the faster the rate of forgetting.
Typically, the memory of what you learn at the beginning of a lesson, and what you learn at the end, is the strongest.
This is called primacy and recency, respectively – and the longer the gap in between the beginning and the end, the more that is forgotten.
Not only would your child benefit from shorter learning sessions, which allow them to absorb and process information in more digestible portions, doing so with short breaks in between helps build recall.
When the brain is focused on learning new things, it does not have the time to examine what it is learning, make connections between this information and engage in making sense of the information so that your child can apply it.
Just by incorporating short 5-minute breaks between 15-20 minute study sessions can make a huge difference and significantly reduce information overload.
As their brain idles while your child gets a snack, walks around, plays with pets, etc., and no longer needs to focus hard on learning, it naturally sorts through what it learned, makes associations, and consolidates it in long-term memory.
Thus, when your child goes back to learning, you can review what they just learned and create a solid foundation on which to place new information.
This is a much better, brain-friendlier approach to learning, rather than bombarding a child with all the information they need to learn all at once.
Due to the information overload from the sheer volume of information, your child’s ability to process any of it becomes overloaded and like a circuit-breaker, might shut down.
Remember, completing an assignment lights up the brain’s reward pathways and boosts their dopamine production; the resulting sense of reward and satisfaction makes the brain crave more of the feeling.
As a result, your child is more likely to feel accomplished and happy due to successfully completing a task, and truly feel motivated to move on to the next one.
This is not possible if the child is asked to complete an entire project as they might feel burdened and confused by the size of the challenge, which leads to low dopamine levels, and a lack of motivation.
2. Overcome Information Overload with Time Management
Structure and routine can counter feelings of overwhelm and information overload in students.
You might notice your child spacing out or shutting down due to the sheer number of things they are expected to get done for school.
Rather than being unable to complete these tasks, they may be struggling to understand where to start, in what sequence, and how to balance all their assignments while meeting the deadlines.
Time management and organization can help your child regain control of their workload, and know how to pace themselves so they avoid feeling overloaded.
In The ABCs of Academic Success, I’ll show you how to keep and regularly update calendars and planners allowing you to sort through your child’s assignments and keep deadlines in one place.
Then, whenever they need to check and get an idea of how much they need to do, or how much time they have to complete their assignments, they will have a large wall-calendar or a digital calendar created that lays it out visually for them with color-coded-due dates.
This may be a lot easier for your child to process since they can “see” how much time they have before a deadline and how much needs to be accomplished in between deadlines.
They can then smash-the-task and break the assignments down with micro-deadlines in between.
Planning ahead and having a routine to refer to, removes the uncertainty which often accompanies information overload.
To ensure your child is regularly updating their calendars with the things they need to do, run an overview with them daily, and request teachers to do the same.
Digital planners and calendars installed into your child’s devices may also be helpful, as if they forget to check their planner, the automatic notifications can alert them of pending commitments.
3. Overcome Information Overload Through Organization
Organization is not only limited to time – it is also about structuring study notes, homework, and other materials which enforces order and method, and limits information overload.
If your child is keeping all their notes, handouts, and homework in one binder, they may easily feel overwhelmed, misplace items or overlook important papers and information.
I recommend categorizing all study materials in a meaningful and logical way to minimize information overload and anxiety.
Color-coding sections of your notes for a chapter by breaking them down into sub-topics, for instance, allows your child to easily pinpoint the information they need.
It also helps them naturally break down what they need to learn – or “smash- the-task” as I discussed above.
Separating subjects into different folders or binders also ensures that they don’t lump everything they need to do in the same place and risk being intimidated by a confusing mass of information.
Being able to locate what you need when you need it restores a sense of control over learning, which prevents experiencing overload.
It also ensures that no essential piece of information or homework is forgotten or overlooked.
Quizzes and tests need to be kept in a separate folder at home as this is the material that teachers have determined is most important to understand, and the content on quizzes and tests will most certainly be on unit tests, and final exams.
In order to cultivate basic organizational skills as a habit to help your child cope, you can go through the binders and notes with your children at the end of each school week, making this a part of their academic maintenance routine.
In The ABCs of Academic Success, not only will you receive a free 15 minute consultation with me, but I will share with you success solutions that have worked for more than 35 years.
These are all simple and effective strategies on how to tackle not only information overload, but other learning issues your child might be facing.
Which of these 3 best solutions for students who struggle with information overload to achieve academic success are you thinking of trying first?
I would love to know how they work out for you!
Dana Stahl grew up with a learning disability. With the right help, she resolved it and her superpower is helping your LD child succeed in school, at home or during remote learning.
As an Educational Consultant and Learning Specialist for over 30 years, Dana created an easy-to-follow, step-by-step online course called The ABCs of Academic Success so you can help your child thrive academically! Check it out and get a free 15 minute consultation with Dana too.