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Information Overload Awareness Day

Information Overload Awareness Day, sometimes known informally as Information Overload Day, is an observance that calls attention to the problem of the overload of information in the workplace, and how both individuals and organizations are impacted by it. Everyone, especially knowledge workers, is almost always connected to the internet, a computer, and a smartphone. New information is continually coming in through emails, text messages, instant messages, social media, and websites. With so much information coming in, less time is spent on each piece, and relevant information gets clouded by that which isn't necessary or is less important. It becomes difficult to sift through the information, and people become overwhelmed and overloaded. They have a harder time processing, making decisions, and completing tasks. They don't have time to reflect, think, and generate new ideas. The information causes interruptions to take place. The recovery time—the amount of time it takes to get back on task—is usually longer than the actual length of the interruption. Ultimately, information overload may negatively affect the economy and the health of workers.

In 2009, Basex, a research firm, named information overload as their "Problem of the Year." Jonathan Spira, founder and senior analyst at Basex, decided to keep momentum about the issue going by starting Information Overload Awareness Day. The first observation was held on August 12, 2009. Basex and another organization that Spira was involved in, the Information Overload Research Group (IORG), became sponsors of the day. During the inaugural observance, 350 knowledge workers from 30 countries participated in an online event.

Because many people tend to be on vacation in August, the observance was moved to October in 2010 and has continued to be marked during that month. Many national publications and organizations picked up on the day that year. Basex and IORG issued a joint challenge to people that they send ten percent fewer emails. In more recent years, they have challenged workers and organizations to send twenty percent fewer emails. Online events—webinars—have continued to be held each year. They have been hosted by Spira, with speakers from several organizations taking part, such as Microsoft and Yahoo.

How to Observe

Some ways the day can be observed include:

  • Take part in the Information Overload Awareness Day webinar. Check online for information related to this year's webinar.
  • Work to cut your email output by ten or twenty percent. Avoid "reply to all," forwards, and any emails that aren't necessary. Unsubscribe to email lists. Don't send a text or call someone to ask them if they received your email right after you email them.
  • Move to a place free of distractions to do your work.
  • Cut out multitasking, and focus on one thing at a time.
  • If possible, completely disconnect for the day.
  • Learn more about the Information Overload Research Group.
  • Read Jonathan Spira's book, Overload!: How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.

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