The Information Overload Myth

The whole idea of people claiming to be overwhelmed with information never sits well with me. I have tons of potential places I could get information every day, but largely tend to ignore all of them unless I’m addressing a specific issue or topic. I know all the information is right there. I suppose I could get sucked into the vast universe of information. Instead I dip my toe in by querying Google, or my Sent items in Outlook, or my accounting software, or whatever other information repository is most likely to have the answer I need at that time. I’m not buried under this information all the time. In general it sits waiting for me to need something, the same way a book sits waiting for someone to read it.
Mark Cuban sums this up better than anything else I’ve seen calling the world we live in Open Book. The open book testing analogy is a good one. Dori Smith’s idea of the Backup Brain is another good analogy. There’s no real need to be a repository of information when there are plenty of good tools for filing and forgetting until you need to recall. That’s largely what motivated me to start blogging many of the things I do in the first place – by documenting something in my sphere of control, I have a much smaller result set to draw on when I need to recall that information later.
Sure there are additional inputs that might grow the influx of information – subscribing to lots of blogs, getting lots of email. These are inputs that can largely be turned off. Stop responding to any email you don’t care to address and the overall rate of email will decline. Unsubscribe from blogs you don’t read, or use reading filters and read summaries to narrow your “required reading” list to only what you really need to read.
It’s amazing how much more time I have every day that I don’t scan the headlines of every blog I subscribe to. The emails I need to respond to get attention in a timely manner. The rest of the information waits patiently until I need it (which for 99% of it will be never).