Saturday, November 8, 2008

It is the I.N.F.O Overload

This post is dedicated to the person who encouraged me to write and to those who work hard, tackling so many issues at work and in their lives. We should remember that "many of the great achievements were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working".

It is the information age. Probably the name speaks for itself, though it is important to remind ourselves that all the developments in technology have been built around the input, processing, storage and output of information! Who consumes the information? The answer is YOU.

Having to consume information creates anxiety and tension. As technology advances and invades all aspects of our lives, it can deliver information that is too much to handle. Knowing where to find the information is a big issue. Finding the information does not mean that it exists or is accurate. Even if the information exists and is accurate, we sometimes cannot access it. Today, we have to deal with a large volume of ubiquitous information presented by different media like websites, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, books … etc. "A week day edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a life time in the 17th century" R.S. Wurman.

Understanding the information can be as complicated as collecting and analyzing the data. Have you ever faced a complex problem where the complexity is beyond the human mind capability to comprehend? A typical example is a network problem or an application error in which people spend days trying to figure out what is wrong and why.

Technology traps us into working 24/7 and we are expected to produce more with the available information and communication tools. We are always online and work is following us everywhere. Working harder is no more enough to sustain growth and we cannot work harder and harder indefinitely.

Keeping up is difficult. "In every 24 hours period, approximately 20000000 words of technical information are being recorded. A reader is capable of reading 1000 words per minute would require 1.5 months, reading 8 hours every day, to get through one day technical output, and at the end of that period, he would have fallen 5.5 years behind in his reading" Mark R Nelson.

The problem with information overload is that it affects all aspects of our life. It causes stress, delay in making decisions, distraction from main responsibilities, loss of job satisfaction, difficulties in memorizing and remembering, and reduced attention span.

To deal with the information overload, you need to manage sources of information and communications tools. You should prioritize your work and deal with the task until it is completed. If you have to deal with paper documents, divide them into current work, pending and reference if they require no action. If a copy of a document can be found somewhere else, throw it away. In your PC, make sure you create an organized file system that makes it easy to find documents. You should always evaluate the information you process and eliminate all non-essential information at its source. For effective communications, identify channels and develop ways of dealing with them and processing them completely.

Email is linked to the number 1 stress factor in the workplace which is constantly being interrupted. The problem with email is that there is no body language involved, which might cause confusion over meaning and sometimes repetition of the same basic question having to run in circles without a result. In addition to that, we sometimes have to deal with full mailboxes, loads of spam and big attachments. To use email effectively and lighten the load, read and reply when you have time, try to organize emails in folders and develop groups of contact lists for easy search and sort.

We have to accept that overload affects everyone, set our goals, focus on the task in hand, learn to let go and limit our time when dealing with tasks.

Do you tend to forget a lot?
Do you think that you do not have enough time for yourself?
Do you stress out when you hear the phone ringing? Or receive an email?
Do you feel that you have too much to do and less time to accomplish?
Do you feel like "you are lost"?
Do you lose your nerves easily and fast?
Do you feel like you want to destroy your computer and phone?
Do you feel like you just want to wash your brain and have a fresh start?
Do you have to deal with too much information, more than what you can handle?
Are you tired of working nearly 24 hours a day?
Are you tired of problems that need days to solve?
Are you addicted to computers?

Well, if your answer is "Yes" to any of the above questions, you are overloaded with information!


  1. Dear Sulaiman,

    Thank you for the very interesting topic in a very critical time when we are (I'm) really overloaded with information. The article is very informative, comprehensive, and realistic and moreover it is attractive. Your way of writing is nice; you’re putting the information in a simple but beautiful plate so it grabs the reader’s attention and consolidates their participation with the text by real examples.
    I believe that information is a live creature, similar to people requires feeding, watering, taking care and moreover, managing. It is spreading in uncontrollable manner, un recordable, untracked and unmanaged as well.
    The technology era is opened for any kind of information. It is an open sky, infinite, without borders or limitations. That’s why it is dangerous sometimes to trust these resources or to depend on them.
    Collecting, rearranging, organizing and storing information is reproduction. We do recycle the information we get, hence, information keeps on increasing and increasing till we are overloaded. We can’t control such growth as we are not having a centralized human brain. Information is not spread only via media, but even via our normal communication with each other. Simple people with simple thoughts and simple knowledge can produce their own source of information that can become a reference to someone else somewhere, somehow and sometimes this knowledge can become the basic of kind of learning. That's why we get confused, we get lost when dealing with different information resources. Hence, there should be an international policy, rules and regulations, standards and agreements to manage information overloading global wise. It is never impossible, we are still the most intelligent creature and we can find out away up.

    Let’s be the initiative.

    Take care.


  2. Dear Sulaiman,
    This is a helpful post. All the professionals must be going through atleast one of the factors listed.

    To create a organised file system in PC is the task which I find the most difficult one... Still in the process of making that system...

    Prioritizing is ok but declaring few of the tasks worth of deleting is very difficult. You feel that this may be of importance tomorrow. To make that decision, I feel, is very difficult.

    This post made me think and clear off few of the unnecessary things which were lying on my desktop and desk...

  3. Dear Zeena,

    Thanks for your input. It really adds value.
    As you mentioned, the way this industry boomed beyond limits in recent years is the reason behind the kind of information mess and tech stress we are facing. I liked the concept of reproducing information; this is actually what is happening with the ubiquity of information we find everywhere. I think it is all about managing information at the source.
    The worst thing is that the web has no rules and media channels are expanding and becoming dominant in our life.
    But we still can do something about it (being optimistic).

  4. Dear e-person,
    Thanks for your comment. Good to know that you did something to get things clear in your both desks.

    With regards to organizing PC files, sometimes we need to do things fast and that creates the mess. We should periodically review and organize the files in different folders to make our life easier. Unless we do that, it becomes difficult to find what we really want (and sometimes we need urgently).

    We have to try our best to tackle this issue because it really affects our whole life.

  5. Hi Suleiman,
    Thank you for commenting on my participation.

    I'm still waiting for more topics to be published by you soon.

    Remember that: "A mind once stretched by a new idea can never return to its original dimensions."
    Oliver Wendell

    Good luck.


  6. Zeena,

    Here you go. A post on securing online transactions.

    E-Security Concern

    Indeed, our minds are stretching, but I am not sure of the dimensions :-)