The Plague of the Over-Informed

Artwork by Dante Terzigni. Check out his work at  http://danteterzigni.com/

Artwork by Dante Terzigni. Check out his work at http://danteterzigni.com/

I have a confession to make: I’m an information hoarder. As a naturally analytical person whose confidence in my abilities waxes and wanes, information-gathering is a security blanket for me. If I am afraid of attacking something, I look up information on how other people do it, to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.

With my scientific background (my degree is in geology—go figure), the siren call of locking myself in a room and conducting research by myself without having to communicate with anyone is sometimes pretty tempting. However, too much information-collecting can be hazardous to my productive health. If I know that I can take the placebo of doing something instead of doing the right thing, on my most unsure days I would rather wrap myself in the blanket of research. The flip side of my addiction is that, if I get too much information, I scare myself all over again and become inert with indecision. Bad news, right?

My agreement with myself is this: if I am a good girl, and accomplish the finite list of to-dos that can possibly be accomplished, I will allow myself time for research. If a project demands research, I will give myself parameters (e.g. only the first page of Google results; three pages of draft fodder from other sources; five document downloads) to make sure I don’t get carried away. These guidelines keep the ratio of static information to action more manageable and allows me to stay productive, despite any uncertainty I might be feeling.

Do you have any tactics to deal with information overload? I know I’m not the only one who has this issue, and comments are always encouraged!

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Posted on March 19, 2013, in Kylie, Productivity, Project Management, Prospect Research, Your Career and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This is one of my hardest things to deal with. I call it Analysis Paralysis. I find that before I start the research I first must establish boundaries also, one of which HAS to include what DONE looks like. If I don’t know what the end answer needs to look like I could be looking forever.

    • Right on, Dan. If we don’t know what our desired outcome is, we sure won’t be able to plan how to get there very efficiently. Thanks for the insights!

  2. Hi,

    Information overload is extremely common in medium to large projects – usually because of the so many stakeholders. We have actually published an excellent post a long while ago on information pollution (which was the author’s naming for information overload). You can see it here: http://www.pmhut.com/information-pollution

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