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Are your eyes glazed over from reading too much information? Do you feel exhausted from researching and reading and have little to show for it?  Are you inundated with information, overloaded to the point of being overwhelmed?  Welcome to the club!

Feeling “overloaded” is common. It describes having too much of an item, and in the case of research, it’s too much information to read, learn, act upon, study, aggregate, etc. The thought of trying to take it all in is overwhelming, and impossible.  Data and information is everywhere, assaulting our senses.  It is amazing that anyone ever accomplishes any task!

The “old days” were so much easier – there was less information, so no one was overloaded.  What changed and created this problem? Is “being overloaded” a new phenomenon?  Have humans undergone an information creation craze in the 21st century unlike all other eras?

Let’s take a research example, one based in today, the other in the 1980s.  The task is to write a paper on the history of the movie industry.  Today, a researcher would take to the computer, issuing queries and surfing the web.  In the process they would learn synonyms of “movie” such as “films,” “motion picture,” or “silver screen.” The internet search engine would return millions of hits for each query.  The student would read many, trying to identify which warrants further investigation.  Eventually, the student would concentrate on a subset of the material and pray they selected the right material to produce the best paper.

In the 1980s, the researcher would go to the library.  The card catalog would be checked for the subject.  The librarian may be asked, as she was specially trained to think of synonyms, and knew the secrets to uncovering the best resource material. Perhaps the researcher would uncover papers written on the subject, or call a film producer, visit a set, or watch some old films. The researcher would have far less information from which to select to use.

Are the two scenarios that different?  YES, you scream – now we have much more information!  But do we?  It is true that information is more accessible via computers than it was via the card catalog.  Anyone with a computer has a voice and can create data and information and make it globally accessible with a click of a button.  How much is unique information and how much if it is reiteration of the same, or an opinion?

In the 1980s, we were also overloaded with information. The library was full of books, and the card catalog was an autodidact’s mecca.  But it was easier to focus on what was important; to be taken off track by the irrelevant book took effort – more effort than clicking a button, to be sure.  Focus was thrust upon us because being unfocused incurred additional effort.

The difference between now and then is the medium for information – paper versus digital.  With the different medium is a different delivery – paper took more effort.  So when our data access and delivery became modernized with digital, we neglected to modernize how we focus on a topic– no one put blinders on us.  It has become too easy to wander and investigate other topics.  Hence we now feel overloaded with all the data/information.

Can you really have too much information?  You can, if you try to ingest it all – CLICK HERE to read my recent white paper and learn more about focus.  Focus, Grasshopper, focus….

 

 

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