Dealing with Information Overload

I read an interesting article today by time management guru and “Getting Things Done” creator David Allen. The article, entitled “It’s not about Time” contains a sentence that really struck a cord with me…

“Too much information is not the problem. If it were, we’d walk into a library and faint from the presence of so much data.”

What is Information Overload?

Whenever I’m talking to people about time management, the phrase “Information Overload” often comes up. Too many e-mails, too many web-pages to visit, too much information to digest. Never focusing on the job at hand because there’s so many distractions, and so ending up never giving anything your full attention.

It’s something I struggle with myself. For example – I’ll be researching a specific Technical issue via the web, and whilst reading that page another web link on the page will take my interest. So I click that link and find myself reading what I find. Maybe there’s another link from that page that interests me, and I click that link and… that five minute review of a single web-page with the answer I needed to move my project forward has suddenly turned into 30 minutes of digesting information! Now that information may be useful to me in broader terms, but it sure wasn’t what I set out to actually do!


Or I’ll be working on an issue and an e-mail will ping into my inbox. Realistically I know the e-mail can’t be that important that it needs my absolute immediate attention, if it were then the person sending it would likely have telephoned me instead – but I find myself distracted from the job in hand to “just see” who it’s from. And then maybe fire off a quick response to the e-mail. Or follow a link. Or… you get the idea. 🙂

Learning Self Management

Whilst it’s difficult to gain a level of “Self Management” (as Allen calls it) that keeps you disciplined enough to stay on focused on the topic in hand, I think it’s a skill that is worth acquiring!

“Self-management is about knowing what to do at any given moment. It’s dealing effectively with the things we have to do to achieve our goals and fulfil our purpose. It’s also about deciding the importance of the varied and constant information coming at us.”

You can read the full article here – it’s well worth five minutes of your time!


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