If you’ve spent any time at a TEDxMileHigh event, or even just an afternoon spinning in the educational realm of TED videos online, then you know the feeling of TED talk information overload. You spent a significant amount of time listening to and learning from world-class speakers. Now, the only thoughts you can piece together in your reeling brain are, “now what?” and “what am I doing with my life?“
At least, that’s what I thought after walking out of the auditorium doors at TEDxMileHigh Imagine. I spent the entire day with my eyes glued to whoever was standing on that big, beautiful red dot on stage—listening, absorbing, and absolutely panicking from the TED talk information overload I was experiencing.
While I was moved and inspired by the ideas being launched over the captivated audience, my head was spinning. I was overwhelmed with the challenges presented. Then, I was overwhelmed with questions and a desire to support each cause myself. My thoughts went something like this:
- “Okay, climate change is impacting the reproduction rates of fish. How am I going to help the fish?”
- “I’m deleting the internet from my life because I have data rights!”
- “Time to learn everything there is to know about aerospace engineering because astronauts need to be safe on Mars!”
Six Ways to Soothe TED Talk Overwhelm
In time, I came down from my information high. I digested what I learned from the talks and my resulting feelings—and I found a few ways to soothe the post-event overwhelm. Here are six tips to help untangle your TED talk information overload:
1. Take Notes (and Review the Talks Online)
Whether you want to reference big ideas for personal or business use, your notes need to be thorough. There is nothing more frustrating than looking back through your notebook after a deep TED dive and realizing you wrote down a word or phrase but can’t remember why. Speakers talk quickly. They rapid-fire share incredible ideas throughout their talk. So, do your best to listen and write down meaningful notes.
You will thank yourself later when you have a handful of solid, useful ideas rather than a list of partial thoughts.
If you miss something, the talks will be online for future reference. Still, write down complete thoughts rather than fragments to ease the post-TEDxMileHigh event overwhelm: it will help distill what was meaningful to you and why.
2. Take a Day Off
I found this to be the most helpful action following my time at TEDxMileHigh Imagine. It also applies to an online TED binge. Allow yourself to be completely consumed by the TED talk information overload—then give yourself space to integrate. Absorb and learn as much as possible—then leave it alone.
Take an entire day to not think about what you experienced. Distract yourself with anything else (for me, it was the Broncos game).
When you feel ready, return to your notes with a fresh pair of eyes and unscramble your thoughts. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the feeling that you need to do something about every topic or global problem discussed. Instead, allow your mind to take a break. A refresh will help you prioritize the issues most meaningful to you.
3. Pick One Passion (Okay, Maybe Two)
In his 2005 TEDGlobal talk on the Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz states that structure is better than complete freedom when it comes to making a choice. “With so many options, people find it very difficult to choose at all,” says Schwartz, following his example of choosing a salad dressing from the endless options at the grocery store. He argues that some kind of structure, a “fishbowl” in his words, is better than total freedom.
When it comes to TED talk information overload, give yourself structure. After Imagine, my mind was swirling with all of the different issues and problems brought up. I wondered how I was going to be a part of the solution for all of them. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the desire to help fix all of the issues, my advice is to start with one issue (okay, maybe two): when you select your issue, find one or two ways to get involved.
While you can help bring awareness to some of the other problems, putting concerted energy toward one issue is more impactful than diluting your energy among many issues (or getting so overwhelmed that you never act at all).
4. Know That You’re Not the Only One
Imagine had thousands of attendees. The most comforting thing I realized was that I was not the only one in the audience who heard and cared about these issues. And, I am sure my passions are different from everyone else in the room. So, while I knew I was not alone in caring about the topics I found impactful, I also knew other people in attendance would be caring and acting in their own ways.
5. Attend TEDxMileHigh Adventures
TEDxMileHigh Adventures are smaller-scale, educational, local events hosted by TEDxMileHigh. At these free gatherings of speakers, educators, and activists, it can be much easier to have a conversation with like-minded people about the impact you can have. Find others who are helping solve issues that you are interested in and discover ways that you can get involved.
6. Create a Self-Awareness Action Plan
People who are introspective are actually more depressed and less happy with their lives—and feel less in control. This tip is for the self-doubters and over-analyzers out there. Does a TED talk binge make you question every move (and all the moves that came before—essentially your whole life)? Tasha Eurich shares that true self-awareness is driven by what, not why. True self-awareness stems from movement, a sense of control, and an action plan.
“Self-analysis can trap us in a hell of our own making.” -Tasha Eurich
Don’t let the TED talk information overload send you on an internal spiral. Rather, reclaim control, create a self-awareness action plan, and find your “what.”
You’re Not Alone
TEDxMileHigh Imagine was inspiring and motivating. But, while I watched my fellow attendees moved to tears by Marcus Doe’s talk on forgiveness, and cheer on Nita Mosby-Tyler as she advocated for unlikely allies, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was the only one lost in my thoughts.
Days later while discussing the event with a friend and mentor, I was proven completely wrong. She not only had the same feelings but revealed that she had felt the same way after previous events she had attended. I realized this is a common feeling after learning so much about the world that I was previously unaware of.
So, if you’ve just returned from an event or just logged off Youtube, and you’re hopelessly trying to sort through your thoughts, know you’re not alone. Perhaps most importantly, recognize that you know more about the world and the problems it faces than you did yesterday. Now, you’re thinking about them differently.