Dealing with information overload

Continuing from the previous post, help is at hand for dealing with “information overload” and the problems it presents. Various technological methods are available to deal with the problem and to aid both individuals and organizations. In addition there are some non-tech methods that involve changes to mind-set and culture, requiring individuals and organizations to modify current thinking and behaviour towards managing information.

Listed below are some tips, summarized from the HBR issue, to “reduce e-mail overload”.

As a recipient
  • To avoid constant distractions, turn off automatic notifications of incoming mails. Establish specific times during the day when you check and take action on messages
  • Do not waste time sorting messages into folders. Today's powerful inbox search features make that unnecessary
  • Do not highlight messages you intend to deal with later by marking them as “unread”. In email clients such as Microsoft Outlook, accidentally typing in the wrong keyboard shortcut will irrevocably designate every item in your inbox as “read”
  • If you will not be able to respond to an email for several days, acknowledge receipt and tell the sender when you are likely to get to it
As a sender
  • Make messages easy to digest by writing a clear subject line and starting the body with the key point
  • To eliminate the need for recipients to open very short messages, put the entire contents in the subject line, followed by “eom” (end of message)
  • Whenever possible, paste the contents of an attachment into the body of the message
  • Minimize email ping-pong by making suggestions such as “should we meet at x time ?” rather than asking open ended questions such as “when should we meet?”
  • Before you choose “reply to all”, stop and consider the email burden on each recipient
  • Send less email: an outgoing message generates, on average, roughly two responses
The above represent a few of the many suggestions and tips to manage information. There's a lot more information available online on how to manage information overload !