In these difficult times we live in, when resources seem scarce, there is still one thing that is widely and abundantly available: information. According to the most recent statistics, the amount of information created annually by businesses and organizations, paper and digital combined, is growing at a rate of more than 65%. The amount of digital information being created in the world and distributed in emails, instant messages, blog posts, new Web pages, digital phone calls, podcasts and so on, will increase 10-fold over the next five years. The one fact that stands out is this: The growth of information is relentless.
Those who obviously struggle the most with information overload are people directly in its path. Information workers in fields as wide-ranging as education to entertainment are being constantly bombarded by a plethora of data that nearly paralyzes their psyche by its sheer quantity and its diversity. This is obviously a problem that we are going to have to come to grips with.
“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients,” says the Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon. “Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” Our minds are being fragmented by having to process so much information at such a harried pace. No wonder we have a culture that is scattered with people suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. Could information overload, at the very least, be a contributing factor to this societal malady?
And what’s even more aggravating is that most information we are exposed to is irrelevant, time-consuming, negative and beyond our control. I challenge you to look at whatever you read or watch today and report back to me that it wasn’t at least two of the four. In the meantime, would you offer your insights, suggestions and/or experiences from dealing with too much paper and/or digital stuff?
I, for one, am on a mission. I am going on the offensive. I seek to make information my servant by refusing to allow it to become my master. Care to join me. Carpe diem!