Spot Trends and Reduce Information Overload

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By Jeff Davidson

Being overloaded by information and communication every day is frustrating, but not inevitable. If you're adept at spotting significant industry trends, you can cut down on the amount of extraneous information that otherwise competes for your attention. How so?

Most of what reaches us today in terms of information and communication is not critical to our effective functioning, professionally or personally. Much of what we're exposed to, even within accounting, often represents heightened trivia or passing fancies. Long-term, significant trends, though, are relatively easy to spot – and to monitor – with a few simple guidelines.

Years in the making

Significant trends are usually long-term developments, such as the progression of GAAP or mergers among the mega-firms. As a cultural example, the US population's propensity toward being overweight and obese, now thirty years in the making, was discernible in the early 1980s. 

When you identify a verifiable trend, whether it's global, national, social, or specific to accounting, consider how that trend will impact the industry, specifically in terms of how:

  • Businesses or organizations operate
  • Executives and managers lead
  • Supervisors will be impacted
  • Frontline workers will be impacted
  • Costs and operations might change

How about me?

Consider as well economic or financial implications that might result, new opportunities that might arise, and new risks that could emerge. On an individual level, ask yourself:

  • Acknowledging what I believe will occur, what are my optimal action steps?
  • How can I capitalize on my understanding of this trend?
  • What benefits can I bring to my organization, department, boss, and team?
  • In what capacity can I serve?
  • Should I act as a harbinger to others?
  • Can I provide training or instruction?

Scenario thinking

Ask yourself what courses of action are worth taking, given (1) the trend proceeds as you currently envision it, (2) it proceeds with greater rapidity or vehemence, or (3) it proceeds with less impact or at a slower pace than currently seems likely.

As such, you can engage in scenario thinking whereby you plot three different paths based on the overall length, strength, and impact the trend will have. Devising such scenarios will better prepare you to embark on a course of action as time marches forward and the nature and impact of the trend become more evident.

Consider what else will be impacted and the downstream effects of the trend. In other words, given that XYZ will occur in full bloom over the next two years, what other trends could be set in motion? How might your organization, department, boss, team, and coworkers be further impacted by offshoots of the original trend you were tracking? Yes, your inquiry will involve some conjecture. You will be better off, nevertheless, than if you don't consider the ramifications. Forewarned is forearmed.

Avoid the "sensation du jour"

Keeping tabs on significant and long-term trends helps you filter your personal information intake. Rather than being buffeted by the sensation du jour – the ceaseless media attempts to make something out of nothing, you'll find yourself relying more on high-quality industry and news sources, as well as on a handful of knowledgeable others with whom you can regularly share information.

It's possible to largely avoid being buffeted by the merry-go-round of headlines and information to which you're exposed. The best and the brightest in the industry have already developed systems for identifying what's truly important and what's best left by the curbside.

Read more articles by Jeff.

About the author:

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®", is a preeminent time management authority, has written fifty-nine mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, and USA Today. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "consummate speaker", Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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