This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Information overload 201

Craig Roth has an interesting take on the usual "information overload" article in WSJ Offers Information Overload 101 Again.

The WSJ published another article on information overload, which they generally do when Basex releases a new number on information overload, unnecessary interruptions, or interruptions (it’s evolved over the years). ...

Still, I’d like to see some of these articles getting past the “information overload 101? template: observation on how we’re overloaded, quote from overloaded person, “woe is me” pronouncement, attitudinal survey stat, latest Basex figure, quote from an organized executive, personal time and attention management tips.

Craig provides a list of additional items that these information overload articles should cover, and I have some of my favorite topics as well.  But first off, stop the silly X% lost-time-due-to-overload by employees equates to Y billions of wasted dollars.  I just don't buy it.  The time isn't totally wasted, and I am fairly sure the "savings" by making the problem go away would not fall to the bottom line of the company.

So, what should be in a "information overload 201" course, instead of the repeats of "101," as Craig suggests?

  • One of my favorite "101" skills: Don't process the same thing multiple times.  This is particularly problematic when you have multiple platforms (mobile devices) that don't do a good job of letting you process those inputs properly.  Processing actions: Delete, Do it, Delay, Delegate.
  • Information overload doesn't only affect individuals.  There is a whole culture around giving / asking for too much information.  Work together to devise the best strategies for communications.  (Talk to Luis Suarez about intelligent use of social media, and no more email.)
  • As Craig asks, consider what is a reasonable amount of time to be spending processing your information (and that is more than just email).  Decide what is right for you - for each other - and find ways to keep it at that level as a maximum.  Look for ways to reduce it further.
  • Email (technology) is not a substitute for collaboration.  Excessive email is probably a crutch for collaboration that isn't happening in better ways, such as face-to-face or on the phone.  I've seen many organizations where the team can't agree on anything, but they never actually talk to each other.

I also note that the WSJ article has a suggestion (from someone at IBM) to take greater advantage of social media tools.  That is a step outside the normal box of Information Overload 101.

What would you put in an article about information overload if you weren't allowed to use the usual tropes about dollars lost due to wasted time?  How would you expand the "how to overcome" section to something new or different?

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