Self-Discipline is the Best Weapon Against Information Overload

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There’s been a bit of chatter over the recent NPR story about email overwhelming people’s time in the workplace. The trendy news angle seems to be to convince us that email addiction and information overload is a serious problem, worthy of the attention of high-powered think tanks to help save us from drowning.

That’s like saying there’s a problem with people’s bathtubs overflowing. The problem isn’t too much water, its that they didn’t turn off the tap!

  • If you feel like you spend too much time in email, turn off Outlook and Gmail for an hour.
  • Getting pulled into thirteen different IM chats at a time? Close your messenger for a whole day.
  • Keeping up with online news bogging you down? Unsubscribe or unclutter your feeds .
The solutions are simple. You don’t need fancy mail managers, tools (this one lets you send from Gmail without viewing your inbox ), or data management systems. You just need to be responsible and focus on your work.

I once worked with a guy in an email-intensive office who had an Outlook rule set to permanently delete any mail not directly addressed only to him. Amazingly, he didn’t get fired, and was regarded as one of the most productive people on the team.

We are not the victims of information overload. We’re victims of our own lack of discipline.

We’re human beings. We run the world. We’ve split the atom. I think we can handle our own inboxes.

I know it can be hard to unplug from the stream of information. Lots of things are hard, but we still have to do them. It’s sometimes referred to as being a professional.


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