Information Overload: Overrated?


Over at Lifehacker, Gina Trapani has posted an excellent opinion piece taking a second look at the deluge of studies that tell us how much information overload is keeping us from getting work done. Like Lifehacker, we’ve certainly been a cog in the machine that keeps up this drumbeat of studies and solutions, all designed to protect us from the deluge.

But we’re also in agreement that the message of overload gets used to promote products more than it does to really get to the heart of what’s important about work and productivity. Indeed, we’ve looked at other work suggesting more information might be good for us, and former WWD editor Anne Zelenka has argued persuasively that discontinuous productivity (aka “burstiness“) is a key part of the new way of working we embrace. The bottom line? Take a skeptical look at the next overload story you read, and make sure any solutions you choose are right for your own situation.



This is a really good debate to have (and a good forum for it).

My problem isn’t the generalised, sustained information overload targeted by ‘solution providers’, but sporadic overload — perhaps two or three times a year when the incoming channels get overloaded, memory threasholds are breached and my processing capacity stumbles. This kind of relates to the ‘burstiness’ concept. I suspect I’m not unusual.


Most professionals could easily reduce their “information” by answering emails as they receive them, learning how to delegate certain tasks, and properly setting up their RSS reader. Those three easy steps can help reduce the noise.

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