Title:Productivity in the Age of Information Overload

“There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.”— Warren Buffett

Information overload describes an excess of information available to a person aiming to complete a task or make a decision. Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur. The concept of information overload has been around for longer than the phrase and even in the 3rd (or possibly 4th) century BCE the writer of Ecclesiastes 12:12 was complaining that “of making books there is no end.''

Throughout history, there have been complaints about information overload, particularly during the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution periods. However, the dawn of the information age and access to powerful and low-cost data collection on an automated basis has brought us more information than at any other point in history. Managing information in daily life is no longer restricted to a wealthy elite but is a problem which everyone faces. Social media, e-mail, webpages, mobile apps, TV etc. all spill data into our lives daily.

Causes of Information Overload:

·         Huge volume of new information constantly being produced for consumption

·         Competition within content creation giving birth to the norm of Quantity over Quality

·         Existing information being replicated on different platforms

·         The constant increase in the number of channels the information can be broadcasted on radio, TV, the Internet, etc

·         The ever-increasing amount of historical data present with us

·         Massive volume of conflicted, inaccurate and contradictory information available with us

·         Lack of clear structure in the cluster of information.

Negative impacts of Information Overload:

There is a lot that can go wrong due to information overload when the user isn’t happy with the consumption of said content. Some of the negative impacts of Information Overload are:

·          Significant decline in memory

.          Reduced information retention ability

·         Stress and burnout from the frequency and volume of the information received

·         Lesser uptake of new and relevant information

·         Shorter attention span and reduced focus time

·         Increase in depression and anxiety due to sheltered living.

·         Lesser real-world conversations and connections.

·         High absent-mindedness & social distractions.

Now as we know of the negative impacts that information overload causes, we need to learn how to combat these. We should not let it affect our productivity because as we know,

“Getting information from the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”  - Mitch Kapor

Everyone’s way of how they perceive a piece of information is different. Some may ignore it straightaway and some might overthink and let it mess with them. One can avoid information overload by keeping it simple and relevant. The information should be clear as well as have supporting facts to vouch for said information.

Productivity is hindered whenever a person is way too involved in the information available to him and most of it is not relevant either. To maximize productivity, one has to learn to skip information. This obviously does not mean avoiding important stuff, but just the understanding that you just can’t absorb every drop of information available and not feel guilty for avoiding it. We have been always taught to make informed decisions which are indeed true but sometimes we should feel free to make a decision without knowing all the facts.  In order to not let information overload affect productivity, one should know the fact that incoming information need not be tackled immediately as it comes. Instead, it can be queued and looked at in free time. Information needs to be filtered and delegated properly to improve efficiency.

Information overload is an actual phenomenon which stops us from making decisions or act because we feel we have too much information to consume. These are some simple tips to minimize both information overload for the users and which we can use to prevent information overload on ourselves. Following these tips will reduce (though it will never completely eliminate) the information overload that we and our users have to handle.