More Information On Information Overload

Ah, the age old debate. Is Google making us dumber? Business Week started this debate in 2007. But Excite was actually one of the first search engines that went online in December 1995. And its not really about Google or Excite, Its about having access to too much information. A lot of it is shallow and unmeaning trying to generate traffic or cover yourself or simple copy and paste or pass along because it is so easy to hit that forward button.

Its not simply about access. This is pushy information. Did your good old fashion encyclopedia ever crawl off the shelf and attack you with alerts, requests, posts, updates, FYIs, RSS feeds? Real inboxes from Staples had a physical limit! This can all lead to information overload.

To study and raise awareness about the problem, interested parties from the corporate and academic worlds recently created the Information Overload Research Group. Much of the problem stems from the snippets of information that seem to constantly bombard and interrupt us. The nonprofit Information Overload Research Group is supported by Basex, Inc. which put together a report titled “Information Overload: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.” The following are among the tips that are included in the report:

– Set aside time for email each day to keep it from backing up.

– Turn email notification off in your email program to prevent yourself from being repeatedly interrupted as new emails arrive.

– Read the entire thread of any email or discussion group message before responding to ensure you’re responding to the latest points made and not providing information that has already been provided.

– When possible, send a message that’s only a subject line so recipients don’t have to open the email, ending the subject line with <EOM>, the acronym for End of Message.

– Don’t email someone and then immediately follow up with an instant message or phone call.

– When possible, restrict individual emails to a single request or theme.

– Make sure that the subject line of any email clearly reflects both the topic of the message and its urgency.

– Read your own emails before sending them to make sure they will be clear to others, recognizing that typed words can often be misleading in tone and intent.

– Don’t burden colleagues with unnecessary email, especially one-word replies such as “Thanks!” or “Great!” that are sent to the entire group that received the initial email.

– Be patient with an instant message that doesn’t get an instant response, and make it clear when you’re busy or away and can’t respond immediately.

– Supply all relevant details in any communication rather than assuming that recipients have the necessary information.

Are you ready to tackle Information Overload Syndrome?

Technology Makes Us Dumber, Less Productive And Stressed Out.

A recent Psychology Today article says GPS may get people to their destinations faster, but in the process they’ve loosing the ability to think through navigation problems themselves–a skill that trains our brain to solve other problems too.

Other research on “Infomania” says workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers. The study even warns of people becoming addicted to email and text messages finding that 62% of people checked work messages at home or on vacation. More than 50% said they always responded to an email “immediately” or as soon as possible, but people constantly interrupting tasks to react to email or text messages suffer similar effects on the mind as losing a night’s sleep.

Similarly a recent Wall Street Journal column cited growing evidence that multitasking erodes, rather than enhances, productivity. As people divide their attention between two even seemingly simple tasks–like reading email while talking on the phone–comprehension, concentration and short-term memory suffer. Research also indicates that switching from one job to another eats up more time than waiting to finish one job before beginning the next.

Stress-management expert Jon Kabat-Zinn offers seminars and workshops on time-management. His secret? Mindfulness–doing one thing at a time–can add more hours to your day. You get more done, enjoy things more, and feel less stress.

Technology can connect people. It can also disconnect them. Technology can improve efficiency. It can also drain it. How long can you let an email or text or Tweet go without answering it?