Information Overload or Filter Failure
Information overload (also known as infobesity or infoxication) is a term used to describe the difficulty of understanding an issue and effectively making decisions when one has too much information about that issue. The term is popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock, but is mentioned in a 1964 book by Bertram Gross, The Managing of Organizations. Speier et al. (1999) stated:
Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.
- Source – Wikipedia
We are living in an age where we consume quantity of information in a day that was consumed in a lifetime in old age. Almost everything that we do and see right from the time we get up in the morning till the time we sleep is full of Information in forms of Articles, Videos, Images, etc. You wake up and check the notifications from different sources on your phone, every advertisement you see while going to work, every email that you read, every website you browse, etc. is loaded with unnecessary/irrelevant information. Our constant endeavor to grow and succeed is just exposing to the information which is causing just the opposite.
Imagine an email that you receive or documents that you receive in your work email loaded with information which was not filtered by the sender is not only consuming more time of yours but also causing you to make delayed or incorrect decisions. Pause for a while and see how many tabs you have open in your browser/s with links to something that you probably don’t need or want. You open an article to read which you think will help you in some way will have few more ‘Recommended for you’ links which will either divert you from what you were trying to read and ultimately force you to go in a different direction altogether. And realizing after an hour where did you start and what were you trying to achieve. Same is the case with ‘Just checking the notification on Facebook’. You tap on the app on your phone just to ensure that you ‘Read’ the notification and ending up to see ‘World Cup History’s top ten Goals’ video and then realizing after 15 minutes that spending time on Facebook at that time was not needed neither planned. It just caused you to not only waste your time but also caused you to end up grabbing information that would sneak into your already saturated brain.
Though our brain has a capacity to store, process and recollect information far more vividly than a Computer, it has its own limitations. It has its own saturation point. It just matters how much of ‘Important’ information you have allowed it to store.
It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that it’s not How Much Quantity of Information one has that may help him to be Successful, It’s about what Quality of Information you have stored and use. It is imperative to understand that today – in Information context, Quality is far more important than Quantity. Our fear of losing out on important information is just leading to getting unimportant and/or irrelevant information. And that is something which is leading to a catastrophe, not only in your Professional life, but also Personal life. It’s a common scenario now a days that Families are physically spending their time together but are more actively talking to each other over technological medium. And this is the disease spreading among families and different organizations.
It’s become more important to filter the information one is coming across at active and passive level. Try and search Google on whether ‘Hot Water is good for skin’ and then whether ‘Cold water is good for skin’ and you will find almost infinite number of articles on both. It then becomes a case of Cognitive Bias on what you will read and what you will believe and how much of irrelevant information have you allowed to creep in.
Try and follow these steps to keep yourself on track with Information overload around you:
- Delegate: Try and delegate tasks which can be delegated to your subordinates. You are not meant to do everything on your own. Keep only important things to yourself. You just have 24 hours in a day and only around 12 hours (few more for some) for work related activities. Utilize to the fullest and try to keep the burden to the least. Keep your hands and mind occupied only for important tasks and decisions. Hire an employee or a Virtual Assistant to delegate tasks and save Time and allow your brain to drain less energy. It will be worth for you and your business!
- Distractions: Stay away from distractions. Turn off notifications on your phone, close unnecessary tabs on your browser, and turn off email notifications if possible while you are mentally engaged in important task, put up ‘Do Not Disturb’ tag outside your cabin when you need to focus on something important. Because more often than not, you end up restarting the task after an interruption even after spending an hour initially.
- Prioritize: Prioritize your day in such a way that you are physically and mentally fresh when you are undertaking more important and responsible tasks. This will not only help you to take quick and correct decisions, it will also make the rest of the day less stressful. Analyse which part of the day you are most energetic, and plot your tasks accordingly.
- Unsubscribe: We subscribe to almost infinite number of Free and Paid subscriptions with an assumption that it will help to gain more knowledge on specific topic. But we hardly are able to dedicate enough time on it. At times, we end up spending lot of time on thinking where to invest time based on multiple choices we create for ourselves. Ensure that you only subscribe to something you truly feel will provide valuable and relevant information and something where you will actually dedicate your time. Keep a max limit on number of subscriptions you will have at a given time. In case you want to subscribe to a new one, make sure to unsubscribe one of the existing one to create room for a new one.
- Multitasking: Multitasking was one of the most important skills one used to possess to get more productive few years ago. But in today’s times, it’s one thing one needs to stay away from most of the times. Jack of all trades is one character trait one needs to move out from if one needs to really start getting more productive and start delivering valuable outcomes.
Try and stop your endeavor to read more about ‘Information Overload’ right now because the only possible outcome it may otherwise have is ending up with even more (irrelevant and/or unimportant) information on how to stay away from it! You will just end up attracting more of what you are trying to repel!