Digital Overload?

A piece in today’s NY Times reports that Microsoft, Google, Intel, IBM and others have formed a nonprofit to study information overload and how to combat it (The Information Overload Research Group). The problem is there for anybody to see, but the solution — turning off the email and the instant message client — is just something that a knowledge worker can’t seem to do. This reminds me of the studies of parents trying to wean their families from TV. Everybody tends to go nuts for a while. What will we do with ourselves?!

When I’m cutting I never have email available. It’s just too tempting, and a single interruption tends to take me out of a scene completely. But I guess I’m unusual. Post supervisors rely on email for everything now and being off the grid all day can be a problem.

I know, I know, this is “old fashioned.” Maybe it’s also old fashioned to actually concentrate. I’m a pretty good multi-tasker and that’s the problem. It’s too easy to get distracted.

The Times article also refers to a study showing that 28% of an information worker’s day is wasted with things that aren’t important — and with the time taken getting back to the task at hand after an interruption. If I wasted that much time I’d never be caught up.

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