Do you have information overload?

Over the holidays, I got overwhelmed and let quite a few things go. Then, when January came, my daughter and I went on an organizing binge.
As a result, I got even more behind.
One of the things I neglected was my e-mail–answering only the most urgent ones and saving the others for another day.
So late last Friday night, I was determined to skim, respond, and delete my e-mails. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done!
It turns out I had 998 e-mails–only two less than 1,000. Most of them (839) were legitimate e-mails while 159 ended up in my spam folder.
But I always have to quickly check the spam, as well, because on occasion important e-mails are found there.
Being overwhelmed, I gave up. And by the next day, the number had increased to 1,017.
There were e-mails from friends and readers. There were many e-mails from public relations firms and media resources with ideas for my column—and lots of health-related messages.
Since I find it easier to shop online, there were tons of e-mails from every company I have patronized, mostly offering free shipping or advertising mark-downs.
This glut of e-mails reminds me of a term popularized by sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler in the 1960s: “information overload.”
Information overload refers to the difficulty people have understanding things and making decisions when they are confronted with too much information. With too much information, you become tired and confused, the experts say.
In addition to e-mail, there are television, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, regular mail, the Internet, cellphones and land lines, texting, and Facebook.
No wonder Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, stated that the abundance of information people are exposed to through technology can have an impact on their thought process and may make learning more difficult, resulting in reduced retention.
Or more succinctly, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon says, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
In his book “Surviving Information Overload,” author Kevin Miller talks about the importance of clearing information clutter and creating space to think.
•Clearing information clutter
When it comes to uncluttering, Miller says, remember that less is more. Unsubscribe to anything that is not essential, like magazines and e-newsletters.
Don’t read everything. Get off e-mail lists (notice that many e-mails have an “unscribe” tab to click).
And if you have to answer, remember that “quick and dirty” is OK for e-mails. It doesn’t matter if you happen to misspell a word!
•Creating space to think
Find an oasis amid the overload, says Miller. He believes too much information actually may become addictive.
“Might there be something about information . . . that can truly become addicting. We find ourselves wanting more information—even when it diminishes our life.”
In order to make space for yourself, Miller suggests deciding what you want to accomplish during the next 90 days. Then reduce your information consumption and time with technology enough to accomplish those tasks.
So think about what you would like to accomplish in the next 90 days–write your memoirs, throw a party, learn to make bread, or take an art class? And make the time by letting go of information overload.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.
Write her at or visit

Posted in Uncategorized