The barrage of information can cause us to flit from one thing to another, to scan documents quickly instead of reading them thoroughly. We think that maybe we will be able to catch the main ideas, but we are asking our brains to apportion our concentration across across too many things. I like to call this a ‘channel-hopping society’.
If we don’t like what’s on TV, we just click the button and we can watch any one of hundreds of other channels. Program not captivating enough? Click. Not exciting enough? Click. Too demanding? Too boring? Click.
I think where there is so much information competition for our attention, the only strategy is to scan it all quickly and see if we can make sense of it. But the danger in scanning things quickly is that you cannot truely get into the essence of the message in the same way as when you focus.
Apparently, the information available on the internet is doubling every few months. Even if you tried to scan every web page currently online, it would take you a lifetime. It seems that quantity has won a significant battle over quality and it is becoming harder and harder to find the needle in the ever-increasing haystack.
Most business leaders I know receive between one hundred and two hundred legitimate emails per day. Some people I speak to deal with as many as one thousand messages a day! They can hardly keep up and feel overwhelmed most of the time. I know that when I feel the pressure of too many emails, I just delete everything that isn’t essential. How am I supposed to assimilate all that extraneous information? At this point, something really needs to stand out to get my attention.
Even though more and more people are becoming self-employed, the number of hours they are working is rising sharply. There is always one more call to make, one more deal to close, one more email to send.
In part it is because, as owners of the business, they are committed to their work and can see the value of working hard to achieve more and reap all the rewards. But the scarier truth is that the ‘overworked, constant, Blackberry permanently on’ mode is now the accepted and expected way of working. We know there is something wrong with our culture but we don’t know how to stop the carousel and get off – or at least slow it down.