Any person with two brain cells will be able to figure out that if you check your Twitter and RSS feeds continuously, get IM-ed and emailed throughout the day and you respond to every beep your computer gives you, you will repeatedly if not continuously be distracted from whatever work you were supposed to be doing.
Last year some people with many brain cells wrote a report about it, basically saying that when many people in a company get distracted continuously, this is costing that company a lot of money. Of course, they knew that before writing the report, but now that they’ve put numbers and ascending lines in graphs to it, it’s black on white, a reality that can’t be ignored. The big companies are getting worried. After all, the larger the company, the more workers, the more distraction through information overload, the more money lost, the more reason to be worried.
The good news: they’re working on a solution! 🙂
They haven’t found it yet of course, but they did form an Information Overload Research Group, whose website has the subtitle ‘reducing information pollution’. Sounds like a plan! I’ll keep a close eye on their progress, even if just to see how long it will take them to figure out that the only real solution lies in getting people off the addiction, instead of having them spend time on tweaking their filters for it. For now, their current monthly tip to the information overload sufferers themselves, is “reduce interruptions by turning email notifications off”.
Problem: people are already addicted to checking their email, so even with notifications off, they’ll feel compelled to click a button just to check if email has arrived in the last 3 and a half minutes while they weren’t looking.
The best description of this addiction I’ve found so far, is ‘ADHD 2.0′. This newly discovered disorder is documented by Aldo Bucchi, who also managed to post the first ever photo of the bacteria that causes ADHD 2.0.
While Ritalin has proved to help deal with ADHD, ADHD 2.0 may need more rigorous methods. Some suggestions in no particular order:
- cut your umbilical cord (also called RJ-45, network cable, airport, wifi)
- set the DNS in your network settings to 0.0.0.0
- delete anything that’s called ‘profile’ and has your name on it
- send your friends a ‘change of email address’ message, saying your new addy is firstname.lastname@example.org
- delete (and block!) every buddy in your MSN contact list
- delete the file you use to remember all your passwords (for the cheaters: also burn the piece of paper that has all your passwords on it!)
- tell your 341 Twitter followers that you want to be friends with them, and if they can schedule you for a cup of coffee at their place next week. Then ‘unfollow’ any that don’t have time, as well as those you can’t fit in that week due to your own schedule.
I bet you can come up with plenty more suggestions, so how about you help me out here? Comment with your best efforts 🙂
 Interestingly, back in 2002, these same people wrote a report to say that “online community and collaboration tools increase productivity and profits”.
In my job as a CIO, I’ve been working on tackling information overload with mixed results. My company, a professional services firm, suffers more than most because of a couple of infrastructure problems that arose from a couple of mergers.
I’ve been trying to get my colleagues to acknowledge that attacking our information overload problem will improve our overall knowledge sharing collaboration efforts and also contribute to our bottom line. But some people here just don’t understand the extent of the problem.
I just read about information overload awarenesss day and I’ve signed up our company as a participant and designated site – I hope this will get my point across to my colleagues and help them understand what we can do to improve our overall position relative to information overload. For others in my position (and I’m sure there are many of you) I encourage you to do the same, Information is available at http://www.informationoverloadday.com