Coping with Information Overload

Thread Title:
Life Interrupted
Thread Description:

The typical Threadwatch reader probably fits the description of a PC based multitasker given in the threadlinked Seattle Times article above very well. We have constant interruption during our working hours and for some (most..?) during our playtime aswell.

  • Email
  • IM
  • RSS notifications
  • Cell phones
  • Land lines
  • and all manner of derivatives

The article points out that it's been shown that although multi-tasking is encouraged and expected, it's often counter-productive and sometimes harmful:

We're shooting through technological rapids that have opened doors and changed the dynamic of work, how we communicate and live, and sometimes even think. All these tools have made our lives easier in many ways. But they're also stirring deep unease. Some are concerned that the need for speed is shrinking our attention spans, prompting our search for answers to take the mile-wide-but-inch-deep route and settling us into a rhythm of constant interruption in which deadlines are relentless and tasks are never quite finished.

Scientists call this phenomenon "cognitive overload," and say it encompasses the modern-day angst of stress, multitasking, distraction and data flurries.

In fact, multitasking — a computing term that involves doing, or trying to do, more than one thing at once — has cemented itself into our daily lives and is intensely studied. Research has shown it to be consistently counterproductive, often foolish, unhealthy in the long run, and in the case of gabbing on the cell phone while driving, relatively dangerous. Yet it is also expected, encouraged and basically essential.

For me, im still bearing up under the strain, and loving every moment. Im wired in so many ways to so many news sources and communication mediums that when i think about it hard, it really is quite insane. However, im still enjoying it though the point the article makes about my information intake being a mile wide but inch deep is well taken.

How does information overload and cognitive disrruption affect you?


Don't call, write, or IM ...

I've actually got IM turned off most of the day now since I can't get anything done if I leave it on. While I miss the auto update feature of my old RSS reader, firefox/sage updates only on demand, it's much more manageable now. Every website I build now no longer has an email listed/published I only use contact forms (nasty spammers), keeping the incoming mail down. My landline has a caller ID and an answering machine, and my cell hs caller ID. So I guess I've errected some serious barriers to easy communication.


I would share some thoughts on multi-tasking, but I'm too busy...



(Same barriers erected as graywolf.)

Restrict the Access to You

Give ...
your general email address to anyone
your aol im to business people
your msn im to people you actually work with
your phone number to only people you want to talk to
your personal email address to smart, trustworhty people

Never check your general email, only your personal email
Never log into AOL im (or just set it to away)
Make sure your phone has caller ID
And finally get back to work and make money

btw you didn't mention having to keep track of multiple forums and blogs :)

A few tips graywolf

Uninstall all messenger type applications - they're all backdoors for hackers anyway.

At least two levels of spam filtering on the email. Then use the blacklist facility with wild abandon.

Mobile phone - I keep mine switched off and don't use the voicemail.

I'm now working on the art of not answering the landline if I don't feel like it.


At most times in your life there is no information that you need to know immediately.

At least two levels of spam filtering on the email

I get around 650 emails a day, mostly spam. Checked it out of interest a couple of months ago.

SpamCop reduces these to a manageable 60. Last time I bothered to check SpamCop, it did not appear to be making any mistakes.

A further filter on by own machine cuts these 60 down to about 30 that I need read. I do check that folder about twice a week - there may be one mistake in there

Having said that 7 or 8 of the "kosher" emails are spam - but it is manageable

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