Information Overload is Killing You and Your Productivity

In an article called “Information Overload is Killing You and Your Productivity,”’s Thomas Wailgum cites a new report from The Burton Group. It says information overload has ramped up in IT organizations — with predictable effects. Says Wailgum: “The cumulative response from the CIO community to all of this info-insanity is: ‘Stop the world! I need to get off!'”

The report is called “The ‘Too Much Information’ Age: What CIOs Can Do About It.” It’s available to paid subscribers of The Burton Group.

According to Wailgum, the report includes research from Accenture (Jan. 2007) showing that:

— 42 percent of IT managers complain that they are bombarded by too much information
— 39 percent say they can’t figure out which information is current
— 38 percent say they need to weed out duplicate information
— 21 percent say they don’t understand the value of the information they do receive

According to Wailgum, anecdotal evidence confirms the numbers: “Expectations for responsiveness have increased; individuals feel an instinctive need to respond; the need to send or respond to a message may be closely aligned with an individual’s need for immediate gratification (this may be coupled with employees who need to feel wanted and to confirm that they are an integral part of the decision-making process, known as the ‘CrackBerry effect’); technologies and capabilities for pulling important messages forward and pushing unimportant ones back are either absent, inadequate or unused; interruptions are often too frequent and, more importantly, not of sufficient value to warrant the interruption; and a knee-jerk reaction to the flow of information is to redisplay it in some way, with or without additional context, filtering, verification or summarization (the growth in corporate portals, dashboards, and scorecard applications reflects this reaction).”

The Burton Group recommends a four-step solution:

1. Schedule e-mail time (at least 2 or 3 sessions a day)

2. Turn that “e-mail arrived” chime off!

3. Discontinue BlackBerry use (or at least check it only on a predetermined schedule)

4. Set aside immersion times (such as the twice-yearly ‘Think Weeks’ scheduled by Bill Gates

Read Wailgum’s entire post.


  1. “Discontinue BlackBerry use” – Microsoft Research has released a more refined solution in the form of their “Outlook Mobile Manager” (available for download) that allows one to push to the mobile device only the most important incoming messages (as determined by a rather sophisticated set of criteria).

  2. They suggest setting aside time for email 2 or 3 times per day – for five or ten minutes. If only that were enough!

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