013 - Information Detox



  • Two-thirds of managers struggle under information overload
  • One third say most information is useless
  • Why getting 150 emails a day is not cool
  • The key issues with information: amount and omnipresence
  • Four things you can do to detox for a while.


Reuters survey - Mentioned in this article: https://www.economist.com/node/18895468

Tim Ferris - The Four-hour Work Week

Martha Beck - Life coach at www.marthabeck.com


A survey by Reuters once found that two-thirds of managers believe that the data deluge has made their jobs less satisfying or hurt their personal relationships. 

One-third think that it’s tangibly damaged their health in some way.

And another survey suggests that most managers think the vast majority of the information they receive….. is useless.

Now given the amount of information flying around our organisations, and the time associated with it, that’s quite a profound statement.

Most of it, is useless!

I was once running a workshop on productivity when a young man boasted to me that he got “about 150 emails a day. There’s no way I can leave my emails alone. No way.” 

I felt sorry for the guy, seriously. 

Mainly because (a) he spent most of his working time looking at, and dealing with, emails and (b) he felt he could do nothing about it.

We’re becoming so used to the flood of emails, texts, phone messages, updates and tweets that we’re forgetting to ask what this is doing to us. 

Is it helping or hindering us from being our best, doing our best work, or feeling really fulfilled? 

I somehow doubt it. 

Some days it seems it is all I can do to just keep up with this stuff.

And it’s not just work stuff, of course - it’s Facebook, YouTube videos, Spotify recommendations, Podcasts (yep!), LinkedIn updates….

Now, is this situation good, bad or neutral?

Amount of data stored doubles about every 18 months - surely that has both limits and impacts?

Problem is not only the amount, but the omnipresence of it (nowhere is safe! or information-free).

Overload causes stress on the nervous system - and raises stress hormones.

So, while it might be the way things are now, no I don’t think it’s good.

Why do we get so addicted? (There’s a clue.) 

It may be literally ‘addicted’ to the brief shot of dopamine we get when we see something we like.

It may be, we feel unless we look, we’ll miss out - and we don’t want that.

But it’s not only addiction/fear, it’s culture. 

It’s (organisational) culture.

Many, if not most companies and firms expect that you are ‘on-call’ constantly. 

So, it’s hard to turn off notifications if there’s an expectation you’re always on.

OK, so let me get personal

Yesterday, reading Tim Ferris’s ‘The 4-hour Workweek’ - which, by the way I am yet to personally crack - I was reminded of something I know deep down, but struggle to win the battle over. 

I do not need to know so much! It’s just not necessary. 

All it does is soak up all my time and then I’m too tired or unmotivated to go and do things more creative or enjoyable.

I’m going on an information detox. I began last night by noticing I had over 900 contacts in my iPhone. 900!! That’s more than the population of some islands in the Pacific! 

So I culled out everyone either I had elsewhere (like in Mailchimp), whom I hadn’t talked to for at least 18 months, or whom I could find just as easily again if I really needed to.

The result is (a) I feel great, (b) I have fewer contacts to think about for now and (c) I can more easily concentrate on the 422 contacts I have retained to improve relationships and add better value.

Next, I’m going to try checking emails only 3 times a day - at 9am, 1pm and 5pm.

Now, let’s look at you

Is it time for an information detox for you?

Would you like more self-control of the information coming at you?

Here are four simple things you could do

  1. Unsub - this morning (at 9am) I saw 6 emails I could easily unsubscribe from. So I did.
  2. Create device-free blocks in your day - 60 mins at a time.
  3. When you glance at your device, ask yoself, RHRN is this helping or hindering?
  4. Go against the flow - train, bus, car, standing in line, walking - deliberately leave the phone in your pocket or bag, and look around and enjoy the peace and richness of the moment.

Thanks for listening and all power to you.

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