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Too Much Information

| August 9, 2011

by Jim Bruce

Today’s reading is the Schumpeter* column “Too much information”, from the July 2, 2011 issue of The Economist.

The column notes that “information overload is one of the biggest irritations of modern life.”  The author goes on to note that the ”data fog“ is thickening at the time when workers are compelled to take on additional tasks.  Many don’t see this situation changing even when the economy improves.

The result is three big worries:

1.  Information overload makes people feel anxious and powerless.  Research has found that multitaskers produce more stress hormones than do non multitaskers.

2.  Overloads can reduce creativity.  Teresa Amabile, whose research studied the work habits of more than 9000 people, has found that focus and creativity are related – people are more likely to be creative if they focus on their work without interruption.

3.  Information overload can also make workers less productive.  David Meyer’s research at the University of Michigan has shown that people who complete tasks in parallel take longer and make more errors than people who complete tasks in sequence.

Given this, what can you do?  One answer is that technology will eventually provide some remedy.  But, not yet.  The second answer is your willpower.  Put simply and succinctly, turn it off.  Ration your input.  Schedule times when you are off the net so you can focus on a specific task;  limit times when you check email;  don’t use technology designed for immediate response – e.g., messaging, twitter, … – when an immediate response is not required.

So, instead of complaining about the cacophony, start taming your beast now.


Have a great week.  .  .  .     jim