Too Much Information!


Information has become the most important commodity in our knowledge economy. From our mobile phones, tablets and computers, we have 24-access to information all the time. We even get Blackberry messages and alerts at 5 am every time we get an email for work. But does being plugged in to the vast information network out there assist or hinder you in your job? This deluge of data seems to provide more pain than gain. This is not only limited to the data that keeps hitting your inbox but also the compulsion that one feels to keep abreast of the latest news and trends to be updated at work. If you are one of those people who constantly looks at email, chat messenger and social media updates and suffers from withdrawal symptoms, then you may be one of those in danger of information overload!

Well, here you may be asking, how bad can it be? Too much information can’t hurt anyone. Well, it certainly harms your productivity; according to one study, for example, people took an average of half an hour to return to their work after being interrupted by an email. Moreover, information overload affects managers at higher levels on a psychological level. According to a survey by Reuters, two-third of managers felt that information overload decreased their job satisfaction and harmed their personal relationships. Even more worryingly, one-third felt that their health had been indirectly damaged due to information overload. Research by the Harvard Business School proves that people have reduced creativity on days when they are interrupted every half hour or so. There are
even some claims that the relentless flow of information lowers people’s intelligence!

Here are some tips on how to avoid being flooded by information and keeping your focus on the task at hand while at work.

Switch Off Your Email
One of the best ways to deal with too much information is to just switch off for a certain period of time in a day and to take regular intervals away from your inbox. You will be able to concentrate on the task at hand. Google even has an option that allows you to take a break from your email; when you click it, it turns your email screen grey and displays the following message: “Break time! Take a walk, get some real work done or have a snack. We’ll be back in 15 minutes.”

Another option is to set aside certain time slots to reply to your emails and social media networks, such as only in the morning or evening when you first come in and before you leave. If that is not possible for you, it would be a great idea to invest in software that prioritises your email for you, from critically important to spam. Similarly, only subscribe to the most important posts you want to see on your Facebook wall and hide the rest!
Productive Mindset
There are a number of ideas espoused by productivity gurus on ways to take control of your information overload problem. This involves modifying your thinking and behaviour in small stems. For example, one can adopt Merlin Mann’s idea of ‘inbox zero’, or never letting your email accumulate to such an extent that it feels as if an avalanche is about to break over your head. Another mindset is to only use a limited number of sentences to construct short, sweet replies to your emails regardless of the subject or the person you are sending it to so you don’t procrastinate while answering emails. One can adopt a Zen-like philosophy to shed feelings of guilt for not reading or replying to every single message. If things get too bad, some even empty out their email inboxes altogether to get off on a fresh start.

Manage Your Information
To avoid being overwhelmed and constantly distracted by a slew of information, switch off automatic notifications on your email and your mobile and computer chat messages while you are working. Then during short breaks, check and reply to important messages only. If you can’t get to an email for some time, then let the sender know when you will be able to get to it. Also, when sending out emails and reports, create a clear subject line and use formatting like bullets, highlights and italics, to make important statements stand out. Also, for your own sanity, do your best to send out less emails and messages. For each message you send out, you are likely to get two responses. Now that you are aware of the havoc that information overload causes, ensure that you don’t burden people with useless emails and messages. Keep it short, simple and sweet!

-Minal Patodia

Volume 1 Issue 9


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