3 Keys to Overcoming Email Overload - a short history

The History of Information Overload 

Information overload is not a new concept, believe it or not. Since the twelfth century and especially since the advent of the Gutenberg printing press, people have been complaining about the wide range of information they had to consume in order to contribute to society.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries an intellectual revolution occurred as books and written information became more widely produced and disseminated, while innovations and new relationships in economics and the sciences emerged.

In 1685 the French scholar Adrien Baillet lamented

We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.'

In the latter part of the twentieth century this concept of information overload has resurfaced with the advent of the digital revolution. This has allowed ever more information to be available to more and more people. For example, a Sunday edition of the New York Times carries more information in it than the average 19th-century citizen accessed in his entire life.

Information overload today 

Personal computers allow each of us to generate an incredible amount of data. The ubiquitousness of the internet allows us to share that information with each other (e-mails, videos, photos, documents etc), with virtually no limitations. Mobile phones have become integrated with portable computing into the new smart phones, allowing us tremendous portability, so we are able to connect with each other anywhere, anytime.

These days, we can get email almost anyone, at anytime, in any place!

As the amount of information flowing into our lives has increased exponentially, we often find ourselves stressed from the distraction, interruption and pressure which this relentless flow of information places upon us.

Here are at least 7 impacts of information and email overload

  1. Interruptions & distractions
  2. Loss of focus
  3. Multi-tasking
  4. Poor decision-making
  5. Lack of ‘think’ time
  6. Organisational dysfunction
  7. Mental health & well-being
  8. Quality of life & worklife balance

The following blog posts will expand of each of these impacts, the effect they have in our work and personal life, and suggested solutions for overcoming them.

How to overcome ‘overload’?

As mentioned in last blog post, there are 3 keys to overcoming information and email overload. These 3 key steps are;

  1. Decrease frequency
  2. Reduce volume
  3. Increase speed

The next blog post will look at the impact of interruptions and distractions from information & email overload - how much it's costing in time, money, mistakes, poor comunication, mental health and worklife balance.

All the best.