How Managers Cope With Information Overload

Man Suffering from Information Overload

Information is the business resource that tells managers how effectively their other resources (material, human, and financial) are being combined and used. On the surface, it's hard to argue that more information could be bad. And yet today's managers often find themselves trapped in an information overload.

Symptoms of Information Overload

Twenty years ago experts predicted that the information revolution would make employees more efficient. Computerized electronic mail — or simply e-mail — would tie people together. Information galore would help people make decisions, slash manufacturing times, and speed the process of introducing new products. Now that employees all have their own personal computers (PCs) wired to the network and in touch with the world, many managers wonder if we have gone too far.

At a time when managers are struggling just to keep up with the technical changes in their own field, having to cope with excess information, or "junk e-mail trash," leads to frustration and reduced productivity.

How to Survive Information Overload

Successful executives recommend the following three methods to manage the flood of information. First, experts suggest that you begin by looking at what's really important to you. Set specific goals that you want to accomplish during the next twelve months and then develop a plan to reach those goals. Once you know where you are headed, you may be able simply to delete as much as 50 percent of unwanted information irrelevant to your goals.

Second, many people have found that it helps to handle e-mail messages only at certain times of the day. By checking your e-mail early in the morning, at noon, and at the end of the day, you can commit the majority of your time to more important tasks, ones that help you obtain your goals.

Finally, the PC may be the largest single cause of information overload, but it may also be the best solution to the problem. Today, software is available to filter and sort your e-mail messages. These programs can delete unwanted messages and rank incoming messages according to names you have entered. For example, you could instruct the computer to place any messages from your boss at the top of the list and to put messages about a company exercise program at the bottom. Be forewarned: A filtered-out message may be really important, but if it comes from a person who is not on your approved list, the software might scrap it.

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