Coping with information overload

Mar 25 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A survey of IT directors and senior and middle-ranking line managers by the British Computer Society and Henley Management College has found that the daily surge of mail flooding into their inboxes is costing around 2 hours per working day. This overload is not only increasing levels of stress, but is also having an effect in terms of efficiency and productivity levels.

Managers reported receiving on average 52 emails per day, with 7 per cent receiving 100 or more. Of these 33 per cent of emails were deemed unnecessary, confusing and unclear.

How can this bombardment be managed without increasing levels of stress and workload?

Older Comments

Most of the unnecessary email is probably either research findings or managers covering their backs with their own managers by cc-ing every possible interest group. Judicious use of the white thing on the desk that you talk into when making simple requests of colleagues is both less time consuming and more persuasive.

It would help, of course, if companies recognised the importance of the CIO beyond IT - real information systems would eliminate the need for the internal wave of spam.

Iain Bennett London

Can anyone remember life before e-mail and can you imagine functioning without it? Most of us would find it very difficult to say the least. We all react with dismay and alarm when the almighty server is experiencing a fatal error or something more sinister. The flow of work is brought to a halt and we depend on the powers that be (IT folks) to save the day. In some way we feel immobilized without the use of e-mail - there is no question that the way we work today is steered by e-mail messaging. One way to manage the e-mail crunch within the workplace is to set guidelines. Agree with your co-workers and managers on how e-mails will operate in your daily communication. Key points to keep in mind:

• E-mail is a tool for communicating so use it intelligently and economically • Dedicate certain times of the day to check and reply to messages: Do not keep e-mail open indefinitely it will cause distraction • Do not send mission critical messages via e-mail • E-mail should not replace face-to-face meetings •Do not let e-mail dictate how you work, let e-mail work for you

Mary Catherine Flood London

Emailing is a fantastic means of communication - but the worst are the cut and pasted ones that are mailed en masse. Thats where it becomes irritating, when the personal touch is lost completely.

Brenda Dwight Coventry

Journalists are especially vulnerable. I was speaking to an editor last week who claims that she gets 70 emails a day from PR's seeking to sell in stories and at least as many phone calls to follow them up. Interestingly, we are now being asked to write to journalists or to put emails sent in the post! which rather defeats the object but clearly illustrates the overload point.

nicola london

Since the emergence of the worldwide web and improved communication channels, I think we are certainly getting overloaded with lots of “information”, cluttering our in trays and our email “In Boxes”. There is a saying which states that 'information is power'. I would add to this that there is a lot of data which is raw information; it only becomes useful once we have digested it and either added value to it or acted upon it. So you need to ask yourself two questions:

A) Is it relevant to you and the activities that you are focused on?

B) Can you make use of it quickly enough?

Due to the increased speed at which data can now be shared it is essential that you make use of it as soon as it is made available to you, particularly when you are in a selling role. Information has a reduced shelf life, but for the knowledge worker, it is becoming increasingly important.

Data, digested and turned in to Information that is used quickly in a knowledgeable way is indispensable to the professional sales person.

John Bancroft South East