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.