· 1 min read · Features

Too much data, too little time

Its a fact although not a very useful one that more data will be created in the next two years than in the whole of previous human history. And much of it will undoubtedly be vital to know. There is also the matter of the 1,000 books that are, and will continue to be, published every day. A conservative guess is that youd probably find it useful to read at least three or four of these daily.

Even a random selection from our ever-groaning bookshelf reveals Now, Discover Your Strengths, Clausewitz on Strategy and even The Art of Napping at Work. If you read these and every other relevant book published, youd probably be the smartest manager in the world. But, of course, you wouldnt have time for a job.

Thankfully, David Lewis, a business psychologist who spoke at HRD this year, was able to offer advice. He revealed strategies for improving reading speed and memory, determining what information sources will best suit your needs and even a yoga-based breathing exercise to boost concentration.

And we certainly need help like this. A world-wide survey by Reuters has found that two-thirds of managers suffer from increased tension and one third from ill-health just because of information overload. Its a huge problem that can also lead to poor decision-making, reduced attention span and difficulties in remembering and learning.

Semco boss Ricardo Semler devoted an chapter of his book, Maverick!, to time management. Set a time that youre definitely going home, he says; buy another rubbish bin for all the extra stuff youre going to throw away, he says; and take the Ellis Watson approach to meetings. (Human Resources, May 2001). He doesnt actually say the last one but its what he means.

Further reading:

This is a horrible addiction... by Ellis Watson, Human Resources (April 2000)

Maverick! by Ricardo Semler, Warner Books (1995)

Information Overload: Practical Strategies for Surviving in Todays Workplace by David Lewis, Penguin (1999)

Handling Information Overload in a Week by Andrea Griffiths and Bob Norton, Hodder & Stoughton (1999)

30 Minutes to Manage Information Overload by John Caunt, Kogan Page (1999)