Information Overload is Hazardous to Your Organization

3 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by information? Whether it’s your Twitter feed, email inbox or all the different types of content generated by blogs and news feeds, you’re certainly not the only one struggling to keep up.

A recent webcast hosted by Dow Jones, a leader in news and business information, and BrightTalk, a venue for online events for professionals and their communities, aimed to help us effectively fight information overload.

The Hazards of Too Much Information

The webcast was an opportunity for Jonathan Spira of Basex to share findings from his most recent book, Overload! How too much information is hazardous to your organization, while Anne Caputo, Executive Director of Dow Jones Learning & Information Professional Programs, discussed the results of a new survey of information professionals, focusing on information overload from the newly launched Dow Jones Knowledge Professionals Alliance site.

Here’s what we learned about the perils of information overload:

  • A minimum of 28 billion hours is lost each year to information overload in the United States.
  • Reading and processing just 10 email messages can occupy over half of a worker’s day.
  • It takes 5 minutes to get back on track after a 30-second interruption.
  • 66% of knowledge workers feel that they don’t have enough time to complete their work.
  • For every 100 people who are unnecessarily copied on an email, 8 hours are lost.

It isn’t just that we feel immobilized or paralyzed by information, it’s actually making us unproductive and inefficient. Knowledge workers, in particular, are affected. Knowledge workers are responsible for collecting, reviewing and sharing information with others to advance an organization’s authority or position within the marketplace. Knowledge is power, after all.

But when knowledge is interrupted by copious amounts of email, distractions and conflicted or duplicated information, being able to stay focused and be productive is more challenging.

Fighting Back Against Information Overload

To keep from contributing to information overload, here a few helpful tips we gathered from the webcast.

At first the solutions seem trite: Don’t take your work home with you.

Learning Opportunities

Gee, thanks.

Prioritize Your Workflow

Like most behaviors, they are influenced by organizational structure and culture. Both Sprira and Caputo suggest creating thoughtful workflows that help workers make more intentional, mindful decisions about how they engage and collaborate.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is definitely a recurring theme. Whether it’s reading email messages more carefully before they are sent or maintaining an accurate status on your instant messaging client, simple tasks can make a big difference.

Advance Your Search

Search also plays a considerable role in staving off information overload. Spira recommends using a variety of search engines and tools to help collect relevant and accurate content. Using advanced search options also makes us more mindful of how we search, which can save time.

Pursue Fresh Perspectives

It seems counterintuitive, but engaging with others to discuss solutions for information overload can help. Fresh perspectives can offer advice. A great place to start may be the Dow Jones Knowledge Professionals Alliance site, which aims to create a global community of knowledge professionals who appreciate the impact and power of authoritative information applied to research, market intelligence and organizational strategy. Members have access to toolkits, webinars, whitepapers, presentations and industry news alerts -- all designed to improve the way we work.

Information will not go away anytime soon. Rather than being buried by it, we can stand up and decide to manage our time and information more effectively.

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