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10 Tips for Easing Information Overload

As managers, you're always told to communicate. But for many of us the problem isn't not enough information, it's too much. Handling all the email, messages, memos and stuff coming at us is like trying to drink from a fire hose. Here are some tips for getting a grip.

In his new book "Overload-How Too Much Information is Hazardous to Your Organization", author Jonathan Spira says it's not just personal productivity that suffers. Too much information to handle effectively costs the US economy $900 Billion a year in bad decisions, delays and wasted time.
The biggest challenges to productivity are also the easiest to abuse: Email and interruptions. Here are 10 tips he offers in the book for gaining some measure of control in your worklife.

  1. Don't email someone, then immediately follow up with an Instant Message, a phone call and a tweet. it wastes your time and interrupts them, maybe while they're trying to get you an answer.
  2. Don't combine multiple themes or requests in a single email. It's too hard to pick out exactly what you want and if they store the information somewhere they may not find it again.
  3. Make sure the subject of your email actually says what your request or information is about.
  4. Read your email over for tone and clarity before sending it out. One badly written email starts a whole thread of explanation. Get it right the first time.
  5. Don't overburden people with unnecessary replies like "Great!" and "Thanks". And for heavens sake don't reply to everyone unless everyone needs to know.
  6. Don't get impatient if people don't respond right away. They may be, you know, busy.
  7. Keep your status up to date on IM and email. If you're out of the office and won't be around, tell people so they don't try to hunt you down.
  8. Recognize that the intended recipient of your email or message isn't a mind reader. Take the time to give them necessary information about who you are, what you want and what they need to know. This will prevent multiple inquiries.
  9. Recognize that typed words can be misleading in both tone and intent. Strive for simplicity and clarity in your communication. This means we can even forgive an emoticon or two if it helps set the right tone :-)
  10. Understand that as overwhelming as information overload is for you, it's no easier for anyone else. Do your part to make your team's life easier.
You can hear a full interview with Jonathan Spira on The Cranky Middle Manager Show podcast by clicking here.

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Photo by flickr user chrisinplymouth CC 2.0
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