Information Overload: Is it helping us or hurting us?

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Mercari Consulting (formerly Brochures by Design)

With the proliferation of available information, it's almost as if we know about something before it even happens. Ok, that's an exaggeration but the speed at which we receive the latest news, it's not that far off the mark.

Seriously though, consider the information and communication technology we have available to us every minute of every day: telephones (landlines, cell phones, VOIP, pagers, voice mail), email, faxes, video conferencing, Internet (instant messaging, chat rooms, discussion groups, RSS feeds, newsletters), radio (local, national, international, satellite), television (local, national, TIVO, On-Demand, DVD), newspapers, magazines, etc. and I'm sure there's more that I forgot to mention. Talk about information overload! How can we possibly expect to process all this information logically and still complete our daily tasks?

There's a term for what we're becoming due to this bombardment of information: "pseudo ADD." This term was coined by two Harvard psychology professors who noticed that many people are experiencing a shortened attention span because of advances in communication. Those affected do not have what is considered clinical Attention Deficit Disorder; they simply cannot focus on a task without compulsively checking their email, voice mail and/or surf the Internet. Does this sound like you?

In his online journal, "Dealing with Information Overload," Paul Chin said that this "rampant multitasking and deluge of available information have produced a counterproductive culture and created a paradox: the more we try to do, the less we get done; and the more inundated we are with information, the less time we spend absorbing it."

One important consideration about information overload is that since businesses must compete for people's time and attention, it is important to focus on bringing quality information to the consumer.

Decrease in personal time
Keeping up with all the news, learning new technology, reading and responding to email, making and returning calls take up a lot of our time each day. This then decreases our personal time. We're communicating ourselves into a frenzy. And it's affecting our health.

Stress can kill
In "Dying for Information" -- a paper written from a 1996 Reuters study -- 42% of the respondents said they suffered from ill health due to stress caused by information overload. This correlates to a loss of job satisfaction.

There's no need to let stress get the best of you. Paul Chin suggests you change the way you manage the overabundance of information to keep it from working against you. Try to:

  • Stop being obsessive about email. Unless you're looking for something in particular, you don't need to check it constantly.
  • Designate a specific time of the day to catch up on the news or surf the ‘net.
  • Stay focused on your task. It's all too easy to get sidetracked on something else, especially on the Internet.
  • Don't file things away that aren't important or relevant expecting to get back to it - there will be more tomorrow.
  • Don't sign up for content delivery just because you can. Be selective about what information you get.
  • Organize your content. Categorize your material to avoid clutter.

Keep in mind that it's more likely to get more technology and information rather than less. We must decide how to manage it better before it gets the better of us.

Comments (10)

Nancy Ruben
An Assistant On Call - North Augusta, SC
REVA, CRESS

Hi Evy,

I was reading your blog post, and I realized that we are neighbors!  I grew up in Augusta/Martinez, but I moved to North Augusta when I got married and my husband dragged me across the River. :)

I love your post.  It is so true and I hope that people will take notice.  Over the past couple of years, I have learned my lesson the hard way.  I started my real estate virtual assistant business because I wanted more control of my time.  However, it wasn't very long until my time was controlling me.  I experienced burn out very quickly!

Like you said, because most of my business was internet based, it is extremley easy to get side-tracked and totally off base.  (I have had to regulate my time on AR, I was addicted when I first found it) And, dont even get my started on email.  I had to get to everything as it came in, which made me a slave to my computer.  Technology is supposed to make our life easier right?

It has only been recently that I have taken my business and my life back over.  Not the other way around.  I set aside time for certain activites - blogging, research, data entry, email etc.  I dont do anything else during the time I set aside for that task.  Then, after I finish my work for the day, my inbox is closed until the next morning.  Like you said it will be there. Just because we are able to be accessible at all times, doesn't mean that we have to be.  (My husband dreams of the good old days when I couldn't call him at the store 6 times to remind him to get something I forgot to tell him earlier.)

I am sorry.  I guess that just echoed everything that you said.  But it applied to me perfectly.  It reminded me to keep things in perspective and remember why I decided to go virtual.  It is so easy to get self-employed and self-overloaded which leads to a self-implode.

Thanks for the great post and I will be reading more!

Thanks

Nancy 

Mar 19, 2007 09:01 AM
Nancy Ruben
An Assistant On Call - North Augusta, SC
REVA, CRESS

Me again! I just realized that you are on Kandra Hamric's VREA.com too.  Me Too!  I just did a post about it on my AR blog.

Have a great day and see you on the blog!

Nancy 

Mar 19, 2007 09:03 AM
Evy Williams
Mercari Consulting (formerly Brochures by Design) - Fredericksburg, VA
Mercari Consulting
Hi Nancy,

What a small world, huh? When did you start your VA business? I started in February 2003 but it has just taken off since 2005. I tried to get a VA Connection started here but not too many people were interested at the time. I found one VA that has since transferred to New York that I still keep in touch with. I got the names of VAs from the MSVA website (Military Spouse Virtual Assistants).

I thought your name sounded familiar; then when you said you were part of VREA, I knew that's where I'd heard your name. :)

It's funny, when you're starting a business you work so hard to get clients and make it profitable that it's very hard to then stop working day and night when you finally do have the clients you need.

I work my own hours -- sometimes long hours and sometimes short ones, depending on my family's schedule -- and I wouldn't trade it for anything! I know I'm never going to get this time back with my kids so I wanted to make the most of it and not just come home at 5:30 and rush around trying to get dinner, dishes, etc. every night. I wanted quality time with them and my husband. I have that now and I feel so fortunate.

We'll have to get together sometime!

Thanks for your comments.

Evy
Mar 19, 2007 09:17 AM
Laura Monroe
Inman News - San Francisco, CA
Dir. of Industry Engagement & Social Media

OMG Evy~ What a timely post! I was just "personalizing"my Firefox browser, with all my handy dandy colored tabs, RSS Feeds, my email checker (all 3 or 4), all my links, my client links, my blog links, headline news...do you think I'm on overload!!!LOL! I have to say that personally speaking though..I think what I used to call secretary spread, I'll start calling Information Overload! That's creeping in too:(

I think I will take the above advice...I'm an obsessive email checker too, Yikes!  

Mar 19, 2007 09:29 AM
Evy Williams
Mercari Consulting (formerly Brochures by Design) - Fredericksburg, VA
Mercari Consulting

LOL! Hi, Laura! I give great advice but sometimes I don't necessarily follow it. ;0)

I, too, am a compulsive email checker. I have the sound on to notify me when an email arrives and 9 times out of 10, I immediately check it! LOL What do I think is going to be in there? Notification that I won the lottery?! That'd be hard to do since I don't even play the lottery! LOL

Have a great night,
Evy

Mar 19, 2007 09:50 AM
Melissa Boyd
iAssist Virtual Services - Fayetteville, NC

Another great post Evy. I enjoy reading your blogs. I don't know how you do it...I must have bloggers block. I just can't organize my thoughts enough to write anything original lately, not even a small paragraph!

A tip I have for you obsessive email checkers (I understand...I too used to be one)  :-) - shut that notification sound off.  I use Outlook 2003, I set each clients email to go to specific folders and then set that folder to notify me upon receipt of new mail. I also have a folder for website inquiries that come from my website with it's own sound. This way I only check my email when I know it is from a client or other important criteria that I've set for myself. I check the other email only 3 times a day now, first thign in the morning, after lunch and before I go to bed. It has made my life much easier, which I need especially now, since I'm juggling my business, my house, homeschooling my daughter and my husband is deployed for another 6-8 months minimum.

Keep the great posts coming Evy!

 

Mar 19, 2007 10:52 AM
Evy Williams
Mercari Consulting (formerly Brochures by Design) - Fredericksburg, VA
Mercari Consulting

Thanks, Melissa! Believe me, I feel for you being a spouse of a deployed serviceman. When my husband was stationed in Korea for two years, I was working full time outside the home, going to graduate school full time, taking care of three kids, a house, a yard, etc. It was HARD! I wish I would've had my VA business then! It would've been so much easier. I'm not, by any means, minimizing what you do -- Oh my gosh, just homeschooling alone is almost a full-time job! I admire you. I really do. I always had to remind myself that it wasn't going to be like this forever and to take one day at a time. It REALLY helped!

I know what you're saying about the email notification. I really should turn it off. I don't know why I don't. OCD, I guess. LOL

Hey, why don't you blog about the ways to set Outlook to automatically put specific emails into specific folders? I just had a webinar class on Outlook and found out how to do this so I think a lot of people aren't even aware that it can be done! I also found out that by adding tasks in Outlook that you can set a reminder to make sure you got it done. Boy, I need that!

Hope this helps,

Evy

Mar 19, 2007 11:44 AM
Melissa Boyd
iAssist Virtual Services - Fayetteville, NC

Thanks for the idea Evy! I will sit down later and see what I can crank out in the next couple days. I'll add it to my tasks and calendar...if it weren't for my Outlook tasks and calendar reminders I'd never get anything done :-) It's a real motivator for me.

Melissa

Mar 19, 2007 12:01 PM
Laura Monroe
Inman News - San Francisco, CA
Dir. of Industry Engagement & Social Media

Melissa~ Evy had a great idea about doing a blog on Outlook...I want to know how to do that! That sounds really cool! Lord knows I need it:)

I have to give you a big round of applause for doing all that you ladies do, when you have husbands that are deployed. I don't know if I could do it, so I commend you both...and your husbands:)  

Mar 19, 2007 12:55 PM
Nancy Ruben
An Assistant On Call - North Augusta, SC
REVA, CRESS

Hi Melissa,

I am with Laura.  I told her I think that we need an email support group.

"Hello, my name is Nancy and I am an Outlook-aholic!"  They say it is the first step to recovery right?

I would love to know you Outlook tips too. Please set me free!  UhOh, does this mean I am going to become an obsessive blog checker?  It never ends.  :)

Mar 20, 2007 02:00 AM