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The Information Overload Blame Game

by Craig Roth  |  August 23, 2017  |  Comments Off on The Information Overload Blame Game

I’ve really gotten behind on my email inbox at work and feel I should be further along with some longer-running projects.

So I’m trying to figure out who to blame. Any ideas?

I looked for a list, but as much as I’ve read about “information overload” or “attention management”, I haven’t seen a nice, handy list of targets to blame for my info-stress. And such a list is desperately needed!

So as a public service, here is my list so far. Let me know what I’m missing.

I am stressed, overloaded, and providing late or lower quality responses and deliverables and I …

  • Blame email, IM, the phone, or any other technology for enabling careless interruptions and eating up my time
  • Blame your company’s IT department for rolling out so many overlapping communication and collaboration technologies
  • Blame cultural expectations for quick responses to a never-ending stream of communications (and under-valuing creative and long-term tasks)
  • Blame yourself for not having the discipline to stay on task and avoid distractions
  • Blame your ADD (or the pharmaceuticals that don’t help enough)
  • Blame others for rudely interrupting you (or tempting you with distracting content)
  • Blame management, clients, or teammates for expecting too much
  • Blame your family for demanding too much of the time you need for work (or workmates for demanding too much of the time your family deserves)
  • Blame evolution for building in distractability as a survival mechanism
  • Blame your assigned work for being too boring, making any window washer or viral cat video more interesting by comparison
  • Blame others for not boiling down what they want to say into a few sentences in emails or a few minutes of conversation
  • Blame the planet Earth for rotating so fast – I can’t get everything done in 24 hours! 28 or 30 would be more reasonable

(check all that apply)

Maybe I should roll dice to pick: “Why didn’t I reply to your email last week? Because … [dice rolling on desk] … humans evolved to be interruptable or we would have kept lighting a fire while a sabre tooth tiger attacked our cave-kids. So I’ll get back to you next week?”)

The word “blame” has negative connotations. It seems a given that anyone uttering “I blame” is being negative and will have it reflected back. Too bad – it’s true that these are all sources of overload and maybe being overly explicit about the causes can help the search for answers (except maybe the Earth’s rotational speed and evolution). Or maybe a comprehensive list shows how this is a “wicked problem”.

The mere length of that list makes improving the situation daunting. But even if there are multiple causes, it’s still worth the effort to try to tackle one of these problems and make it a bit better. And if that works, then another. They can’t all be eliminated, but if you can minimize a few of them it can release the stress a bit.

Before you say it: yes, I suppose I could have handled about a dozen emails instead of writing this blog post. But I have an excuse for that …

Category: attention-management  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio




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