Over the years I developed a communication mantra to keep things “Simple, Essential, and Consumable” in order to be more efficient and effective in communicating and achieving my objectives, and to combat information overload. Simply put, information communication should be:
Simple – straightforward, uncomplicated, easy to understand
Essential – absolutely necessary, extremely important
Consumable – rich and engaging content that is relevant to the recipient and easy to access and comprehend
Challenge your self with these concepts on a regular basis and streamline your own communication style in an effort to reduce information overload and be more efficient and effective in achieving your objectives.
Will WFH increase or decrease Information Overload? (m. bariff 9-14-20)
Work From Home (WFH) was claimed to empower knowledge workers with more flexible work hours and improved productivity from elimination of travel to/from the office. Have you experienced these and more benefits? Consider these factors in your personal assessment:
- Have you established with peer workers a clearly communicated boundary for hours when you will accept voice and written messages? If not, distraction can lower productivity and increase stress.
- If your job includes monitoring some aspect of operations, e.g., sales, manufacturing, delivery, call center activities, what is the frequency of updates? Are you experiencing FOMO or adapted to your WFH environment? Have you discovered your “sweet spot” for balancing “need to know” with information overload?
- Status updates initiated by your request
- Continuous real-time feed
- Pre-set frequency of automated reporting
- Periodic reporting with exception alerts
- Another approach?
- Have you experienced “task scope leakage” from WFH during COVID? Has your organization reduced the size of the workforce increasing demands upon the remaining employees? Each additional task demand typically is accompanied by additional information to be processed. If YES, how do you cope along with maintaining your mental and physical health? Do you have a formal tool for organizing and prioritizing your work demands, e. g., Eisenhower Box (2X2 table) within which you classify demands by Importance and Urgency? Refer to: https://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/
- Does your organization value an acceptable quality of the data available to the workforce, e. g. “single source of truth” from accurate, current and consistent data? If not, you probably waste time reconciling inconsistent data. Have you and your work colleagues communicated your concerns to senior management describing how judgments and decision-making quality and time to complete could improve?
- Is your WFH setting ergonomically appropriate? Does your employer provide financial support to create an appropriate WFH workplace? Some guidance from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/office-ergonomics/art-20046169 This may be another source of WFH stress impacting your activity performance.
- A recent Slack “State of Work” survey (https://slack.com/state-of-work ) and specific recommendations for addressing WFH Information overlaod:
7. An “eye opener” recent study of 2,000 knowledge workers in the U.K. revealed:
Additionally, ‘information overload’ is contributing to stress levels on a daily basis: 18% of respondents are stressed by ‘information overload’ across devices, 8% feel they can’t unplug and are dealing with information 24/7, and another 8% feel overwhelmed with too many data sources and apps to check each day.
Almost half (47%) of UK respondents agree that the number of information sources – email, news feeds, diaries, social media sites, company drive, shared drive etc. – they check each day has increased in the last five years. On average, more than one in ten (13%) UK respondents now use more than ten accounts, tools and apps every day.
The data suggests this ‘information overload’ is having a significant impact on both personal life and work. Just two-fifths (41%) of working UK respondents are able to limit the number of tools, apps and resources they access to complete a work project to three or fewer. In fact, a third (31%) of UK workers typically spend more than a minute searching for a specific file or piece of information for work purposes. Only a fifth (21%) can usually find the file they require in less than ten seconds.
The COVID-19 virus is not disappearing soon. Some jobs may remain classified as WFH even after the virus becomes controllable? How are you coping and adapting to this “new normal”—at least for the near-term future? (https://iorgforum.org )
The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey (2016) proposes that Productivity is a composite function of : attention, energy and time. Managing these carefully will enable working deliberately with intention all day. Working smarter in our Knowledge Economy prioritizes attention and energy over time. He recommends focusing on the most important and urgent tasks (ala Eisenhower 2X2 Matrix)–even to the extent for selecting just 3 top ranking tasks to complete in one day.
Message for decreasing IO: (1) reducing distractions consumes time, but increases attention, (2) sleep, even naps, takes time but increases energy, (3) Focus on task–procrastination wastes time creating fatigue. Self-assessment exercises are included at the end of each chapter. Fast read. I found it valuable and instructive. Marty #EndInfoOverload
Distractions are a huge challenge in today’s “always on” environment, and a key source of “information overload”.
In this post, we are going to learn a bit more about the different types of distractions, what they are, and how you can (hopefully) learn to reduce their impact on your personal productivity.
There two key types of distractions: A) External Distractions and B) Internal Distractions
A) External Distractions
External distractions come from an outside source and impact your ability to focus.
There are three main sources of External Distractions; i) Environmental, ii) Technological and iii) Interpersonal.
i) Environmental Distractions
Environmental distractions are caused by something in the environment around you, including your personal comfort level.
Examples include; noise, temperature, lighting, physical comfort, and hunger/thirst.
To minimize the negative impact of environmental distractions;
Turn off the television and the radio (unless music helps you focus).
Set the temperature and lighting is at a comfortable level
Ensure your desk and chair are ergonomically correct.
Make sure you are well-rested, fed, comfortable, and ready to work.
ii) Technological Distractions
Technological distractions are anything caused by technology.
Examples include; pop-up notification messages, instant messaging, social networks, sounds from computer applications, or the display of competing information on your computer or device.
To reduce the impact of technological distractions:
Turn off all visual and audible notifications.
Close-down any applications except the one you need to use for your Focus task.
If possible, simply turn-off your mobile phone, or at least place it on “mute”.
iii) Interpersonal Distractions
Interpersonal distractions are interruptions caused by other people.
Examples include; people phoning or texting you, people stopping by your workspace, and interruptions by co-workers you share office space with.
To reduce the impact of interpersonal distractions:
Set your messenger apps and Email to “do not disturb” mode or shut them down.
Place an “Engaged in Deep Work” sign on your office door or entry to your workspace.
Wear headphones, even if they are not playing music – many people will simply leave you alone if they think you are listening to music, and they have the additional benefit of “muting” environmental noise as well.
B) Internal Distractions
Internal Distractions are ones caused by your own wandering mind. They are some of the most difficult to control since YOU are the cause of the distraction, and why “focus” can be so very difficult!
Examples include; daydreaming, succumbing to distractions or interruptions, thinking about another activity, jumping to look at something else “for just a second” that then turns into much longer than a second, or just “losing focus”.
To reduce the impact of internal distractions:
Meditation and Mindfulness exercises can help you learn how to reduce the frequency and impact of Internal Distractions.
And some of the suggestions such as reducing other types of distractions and optimizing your environment will help to reduce their frequency and severity.
The above information is an excerpt from a larger post on the importance of “Learning How to Focus“.
Thank you to everyone that attended the Information Overload Day 2019 Webinar on October 15th, “Beyond Email – The Next Generation of Solutions“
It was a great session with many interesting presentations and some good discussions.
If you were unable to attend the webinar, or weren’t able to stay through the entire event, we are happy to announce that we have posted the entire event.
You can view it on our: IORG Youtube Channel
Or, you can view the Webinar with this link: Information Overload Day 2019 Webinar
And we are always looking for anyone interested in providing guest posts or support of our organization. If interested, please feel free to contact us.
Thanks again for your continued support of IORG.
Information Overload Day 2019
October 15th at 11:00 AM EDT
Beyond Email: The Next Generation of Solutions
Click the “Register Now” button to Register for this event!!
For this year’s “Information Overload Day” on October 15th, the Information Overload Research Group is sponsoring an online Webinar featuring speakers that are focusing on the specialized topics of “Beyond Email – The Next Generation of Solutions”.
Topics and Presenters:
- Welcome – Nathan Zeldes, President IORG and Founder of Nathan Zeldes Consulting
- Introduction – Jonathan Spira, Vice President IORG and Director of Accura Media
- Solutions Beyond Email – Marc Wright, founder of simply-communicate, will chair a panel of technology experts that will examine solutions beyond email. Participating in the panel will be Nicole Alvino of SocialChorus; and Martyn Perks, a strategic adviser on enterprise social networks.
- Collaborative Team Tools – Marc Powell, managing director of Emailogic Ltd., will share insight on how we can embed new collaborative tools in our teams that will help us achieve our goals beyond what email permits.
- Using Microsoft OneNote to Reduce IO – Dr. Monica Seeley, founder of Mesmo Consultancy, will discuss the benefits of Microsoft OneNote over conventional email and how it helps reduce information overload.
- Concluding Remarks – Jonathan Spira
The Information Overload Research Group (IORG) is excited to bring a valuable webinar where renowned experts and speakers offer fresh insights on the science, stories, and solutions for managing information overload.
Who is this for: Managers, Researchers, Entrepreneurs, Knowledge Workers, Consultants, Educators, or anyone looking to better manage Information Overload.
When: October 15th, 2019, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m EDT.
Where: Online Webinar (webinar details to be provided after you Register)
Price: Although there is no cost to attend the Webinar, we are asking attendees to please consider choosing a “donation” or “sponsor” ticket type. We are a non-profit organization and only through your support can continue to bring you events like this.
Registration Link: Register for the Information Overload Day 2019 Webinar on Eventbrite
Alan Earls [https://searchbusinessanalytics.techtarget.com/feature/Clutter-data-overload-put-dashboard-designs-on-path-to-failure] proposes 5 actions to reduce IO in dashboard design:
1. eliminate irrelevant content, 2. group content logically, not chaotically, 3. assure sufficient user needs input, 4. Let content, not technology be your dashboard design, and 5. consider appropriate access security for the content. Joshua Reynolds [https://marketingland.com/blinded-by-data-181971] further adds 3 new suggestions: 1. content should be KPI driven, 2. focus on identifying patterns in data, and 3. use enterprise-wide sources. Although there are numerous books and papers on effective dashboard design, you might benefit from these more concise references:
1. Microsoft Power BI team [https://powerbi.microsoft.com/pt-pt/blog/the-art-and-science-of-effective-dashboard-design/] 2. Great summary of Stephen Few guidelines [https://www.uxbooth.com/articles/performance-dashboard-design-how-to-put-data-to-work] addresses both content and format
3. Tableau, another leader in effective visualization [https://onlinehelp.tableau.com/current/pro/desktop/en-gb/dashboards_best_practices.htm]
Do you want your dashboards to provide an efficient means to interpret data for faster decision-making? If YES, the above materials will help you streamline your dashboards to improve
Herbert Simon (deceased) offered this insight: “Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” You have this power if you are disciplined. Linda Stone (https://lindastone.net/2014/02/05/our-powerful-and-fragile-attention/) shared: “If we don’t consciously choose where we want to direct our attention, there will always be something in our path tomisdirect it. From the news, to pickpockets, to Facebook — every choice we don’t make is made for us.” Further “If we want to harness the superpower that is our attention, instead of talking about distraction and a need to unplug and disconnect, let’s talk about what it is we choose to connect to. As we reach for what we prefer, we can stop stressing and shaming ourselves regarding what it is we’re getting wrong.”
In her source Huffington post (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/our-powerful-and-fragile_b_4486411?guccounter=1) Linda offers: “Our conversation about distraction, multitasking, and the stern command to focus, actually creates a level of stress, anxiety, and shame.” Further, ” Isn’t it ironic that even in our efforts to manage our attention effectively, we are instead contributing to stress and misdirection!” Her final advice, “The way we use our attention controls and shapes our reality. The way we use it defines who we are, what we’re blind to, and what we see. Direct it? Give it away? The choice is ours. Every moment of every day.” +”Our attention is, at once, both powerful and fragile” So how do you harness and leverage this “gift” to your benefit?
Linda proposes that we struggle with our “Bossy Mind” that thrives on FOMO and distraction (https://lindastone.net/2015/03/11/the-genius-of-attention-making-peace-with-bossy-mind/). We should be aware of this influence by: “Notice what you like about another person, about your day, or about where you are. Notice beauty around you. Notice how you are safe. Notice the way your feet feel on the floor, the way the chair supporting you feels. This might take 10 seconds. It might take a minute.” “Bossy Mind is the Frito Bandito, the Hamburglar of our Attention… our attention is ours to channel as we choose.”
Sound familiar–methods from Mindfulness?– human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Can you improve your focused concentration? Kasio Angeleov (http://www.mintfull.com/blog/how-to-stay-focused/) offers 5 steps to train yourself to eliminate distractions. Certainly, there are other approaches for improving your focus, e.g., filtering e-mail (Knowmail.me), create different ringtones for senders of text messages, and establish “do not disturb” periods to focus on a critical task. Managing your attention is not a complete solution path for IO. The permitted information content may be too complex, limited usefulness, or challenging formatting. Yet, attention management is your gatekeeper or first stage to taming the IO curse.
Difficult information access can result in IO. A study by Teleware (teleware.com) in UK of 2K employees distributed across industries, gender, age disclosed significant frustration from misplacing captured information. Impacts: 720 wasted time, 680 forgot captured information both resulting in reduced task effectiveness. Indeed 520 reported missing deadlines. Only 40% have a routine process to capture, record and retrieve desired input. If an effective process and supporting technology existed, estimated interaction improvements would be: customer service 52%, productivity 48% and information quality 42%. How to improve the capture/record/retrieval of information? Try a folksonomy rather than or augmenting to your probably hierarchical taxonomy for storing data. These folksonomy tags can operate retrieval as if from an associative storage memory structure. Also prune and archive or delete inactive data from your storage. Filter out unnecessary captured information before recording and storing. If some information is used often, consider replicating to a higher speed storage device or cache. These are challenges and helpers that you have the power to adopt as relevant to you. Why not do it?? EndInfoOverlload,,IORGforum