Happy Information Overload Awareness Day

October 20th is Information Overload Awareness Day, a day started by information overload expert Jonathan Spira that calls attention to the problem of information overload and how it impacts both individuals and organizations in the workplace.

Since information overload is a phenomenon that’s not going away anytime soon, perhaps borrowing from another holiday may be in order.  So, I’ve made a list of Information Overload Awareness Day resolutions. 

Hopefully, unlike their New Year’s counterparts, these will actually be useful and easier to keep.

  • No more time in mail jail– According to the Information Awareness Day Study, the average knowledge worker receives 93 email messages per day and many are unnecessary.    So in recognition of the day, I pledge to delete and unsubscribe to unnecessary Google alerts and delete and file emails that have been read each day.  
  • Live…and work in each moment-According to Jonathan Spira, it takes five minutes to get back on track after a mere 30-second interruption.  To fix this, I will eliminate distractions.  For example in the case of conference calls, there have been instances where a well-timed “I agree with the group” or “could you please repeat that” has covered up ill-timed multitasking.  It’s time to focus.
  • Pick up the phone- Composing an email is often more time consuming than just picking up the phone. A quick call is also more personal. (For six months now; I have been either Charles or Alex.  Occasionally, I get an Eric.)  I pledge to stop sending emails when a call with a teammate would suffice. Less email also saves money. According to the Information Overload Awareness Day Study, if every knowledge worker in the United States were to send 10-percent fewer messages, the cost of Information Overload would be reduced by as much as $180 billion per year.

 As William Pollard once said information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.

So, Happy Information Overload Awareness Day! This is a chance to stop and think about what steps you can take to make a change – without even breaking a sweat. Feel free to comment.

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  1. […] Alex Charles of the Information Sanity Blog is wishing folks a Happy Information Overload Awareness Day […]

  2. Karen October 20, 2011 - Reply

    I love your pledges. I will join your email pledge. I might suggest that your phone pledge be modified slightly to an IM pledge. A phone call unfortunately becomes an interruption for the receiver and may take him 5 minutes to get back to what he was doing. An IM can be ignored when necessary.

  3. alexcharles October 20, 2011 - Reply

    Thank you Karen. On second thought, I think you’re right. At the very least with an IM, my teammates will see my name pop up. And maybe scheduling calls could be an option just to have an opportunity to build rapport.

  4. […] Full post here. […]

  5. a j. marr April 4, 2012 - Reply


    The core assumption behind information overload is that the information we want is the same as the information we need or like. Therefore, we cannot with good reason cut back on the information we want, because it reflects stuff that is important to us. Hence, thanks to the web we are overloaded with needed information that we can’t help wanting. However, from the perspective of contemporary affective neuroscience, wanting and liking are NOT the same thing, and are governed by entirely different neural processes. Thus, what we want is different from what we need because wanting and liking represent distinctive neurological events. Therefore, the key underlying premise of information overload that everything we want is the same as everything we need is based on cognitive principles that have no basis in neural reality, and the concept of information overload must therefore be abandoned.

    The linked article questions the concept of information overload by challenging this most elementary underlying assumption. Based on the work of the distinguished neuropsychologist Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan (who also vetted and endorsed it), it is simple, short, and uses a Boston Red Sox title run to make its very radical point. Hope you ‘like’ it or at the very least the Red Sox!


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