Today is Information Overload Day: Here Are 5 Tips to Make It Through the Day

By Anna Breuer on 17 October 2017
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In case you didn’t get around to reading this article until just now because you were buried under an avalanche of e-mail and text messages, October 17, 2017 is Information Overload Day.

Put your iPhone down for a moment, take a deep breath, and perhaps consider a brief disconnect from the insane world of non-stop information that we live in.

Originally known as Information Overload Awareness Day, the observance was created by FBT Editorial Director Jonathan Spira, in 2009, to call attention to the fact that people were drowning in information and that the issue of Information Overload brought an extremely high cost to the economy.

While many people believe that the pace of information today speeds up what we do, the opposite is actually true. Each interruption – be it in the form of the chime of a text message or the ding of an arriving e-mail – comes with a very high cost. These interruptions interfere with people’s workflow and start a phenomenon Spira named “recovery time” in his research when he served as chief analyst at Basex, a think tank that studied such matters.

“Recovery time is the time it takes someone to return to the original task,” he said. “The problem is that recovery time is ten to 20 times the duration of the interruption on average, so a 30-second interruption could result in five minutes of recovery time.”

What’s significant is how this adds up. Indeed, according to research from Basex, 28% of the knowledge worker’s day is lost due to recovery time.

Here are five tips from Jonathan Spira’s book, Overload!, that should be helpful in lowering the effects of information overload in the workplace.

  • Don’t e-mail someone, then immediately follow up with a text or instant message or a phone call. It’s not only a waste of time but you could be interrupting that person while he’s trying to get you an answer.
  • Don’t combine multiple themes or requests in a single e-mail. Something will be overlooked and this will likely result in multiple messages back and forth.
  • Make sure the subject of your e-mail clearly states what is required from the recipient.
  • Don’t overburden people with unnecessary replies like “Great!” and “Thanks.” And whatever you do, don’t hit “reply to all” unless the whole world needs to know.
  • Don’t get impatient when people don’t respond right away. They may be, ahem, busy.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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