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Your Information Overload Stories

Thursday, May 19th, 2011 by Cody Burke

In conjunction with the publication of Overload!, Jonathan Spira’s new book on Information Overload, he will also be launching Overload Stories.  By providing a space to share stories, experiences, and coping strategies that knowledge workers have developed, it will expand upon and continue the mission of raising awareness of Information Overload.

Even though the site is currently in beta, we have already received many insightful and illuminating stories, and thought we would share two excerpts with our readers as a preview of what Overload Stories will offer.  The full stories can be viewed at www.overloadstories.com.

From Sue Gladen, Writer

“I’m a writer, and a distracted one, so the internet is a problem.  Especially because the internet lives right in the same box that I rely on to do my writing.  It is a feng shui problem.  There is no way to separate the tool that I use to write from the tool that I use to access the world wide web, and the lack of division in the tool muddies the task at hand.

The closest physical example I can think of is the similarity of garden tools to kitchen tools.  You wouldn’t store a garden spade in your silverware drawer, would you?  They are essentially the same materials, with similar shapes and functions.  Still, the mere proximity of the garden tool that has been out there digging through the dirt would make the kitchen utensils seem unfit for cooking.  They don’t go in the same drawer.  In most houses, they don’t even go in the same room!”

From Stephen Lefebvre, a senior manager at an energy company

“It was not until I turned everything back on that I realized how big a problem I had.  A few years ago I found myself struggling to make time to prepare some end-of-year performance reviews.  As the deadline loomed I did something drastic, something I had not done in some time, I shut it all off; the Blackberry, the e-mail client, the news feeds, the instant messenger, I put the phone on do-not-disturb, I closed my office door.

The first half hour was agony.  Although I refused to let myself start MSOutlook, the urge to clear a few e-mails was surprisingly strong.  I thrashed to stay focused on the task at hand, and found myself agitated at being disconnected.  Then something magic happened – I looked up and 2 hours had sped by.  I had given my full attention to one important assignment.  That was the day I realized the toll that information overload had taken on my performance.  That was the day that I started to view information-overload as an addiction.”

If you would like to contribute your story in advance of the book’s publication and launch of the Web site, please e-mail it to us at stories@basex.com.  We are looking for two- to three-paragraph stories about how Information Overload has impacted you and/or your organization and what you are doing to combat the problem.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.