Information Overload The Silent Burden

Information Overload The Silent Burden

Information Overload: The Silent Burden
Information Overload is​ an​ interesting phenomenon .​
Everybody knows it's a​ major obstacle to​ productivity but if​ you ask people you’ll find out that not many are thinking on how they can deal with it​ in​ a​ systematic way .​
For instance, do you agree that information overload has a​ negative impact on your day? And: when have you last taken some time to​ consciously think how you can deal with it​ more effectively? I​ am not talking about quick fix solutions like simply cutting back on information consumption (which is​ often the subconscious solution), but really spending some time to​ come up with solutions that reduce the negative impact from information overload without running the risk of​ missing out on the important news.
For many their honest answer to​ these two questions implies a​ certain paradox .​
It might be a​ bold statement, but information overload may be a​ problem with one of​ the highest negative impact to​ what is​ done about it-ratios .​
I've been thinking why this is​ the case and came to​ the conclusion that it's mainly due to​ two factors: one is​ the incremental costs of​ IO, causing people to​ underestimate them, and the other is​ that information overload's costs are not very well visible .​
The incremental costs of​ IO can be demonstrated best if​ we try to​ quantify them .​
For instance Basex, a​ US research firm, made this attempt with a​ focus on costs due to​ interruptions from communication media .​
Basex starts looking at​ IO's impact for a​ knowledge worker per hour before extrapolating it​ to​ the whole US economy .​
The damage that is​ done are frequent interruptions (reducing productivity) that only feel a​ little annoying at​ the moment we experience them .​
However, at​ the end of​ the day (or year), if​ we take all the costs together it​ has accumulated to​ something of​ enormous size .​
I don’t want to​ get too philosophical here, but the underestimation of​ incremental things seems to​ lie in​ human nature .​
For example, most people have once realized with surprise how quickly the spending of​ small amounts of​ money can add up to​ something significant .​
Or if​ we first hear about interest rates' impact over a​ longer period of​ time, e.g .​
if​ we invest in​ some financial products today, don’t touch or​ think about them over a​ decade, and then look to​ how much it​ has accumulated .​
The same phenomenon might be at​ work with information overload, causing us to​ underestimate the damage that is​ done overall .​
However, information overload is​ even nastier than this .​
In the example with the money spending, we will realize it​ someday (when we see the bank statement at​ the latest!) .​
Unfortunately there is​ nothing that counts the costs of​ information overload, so even after the damage has been done it​ is​ not very well visible .​
Thus we are not fully aware of​ the damages and we continue as​ we did before without adapting to​ deal with the problem.
Information overload can therefore be seen a​ silent burden that, despite its well-known existence, might still not get the full treatment it​ deserves .​
Every knowledge worker should at​ least spend some time to​ think about how to​ deal with IO in​ the best possible way – which will lead to​ a​ significant long-term increase in​ productivity .​
Some advice on this in​ one of​ the following posts.

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