08/12/2014

By Phil Jones, Managing Director, Brother UK


Modern technology has transformed mobile working. Never again does your train journey or time spent waiting for your 2pm appointment to show up have to be unproductive, as you can access information and work on the go.

But where is the tipping point? How much information can we absorb in a working day before the words swim before our eyes and we begin to suffer from— ‘Infobesity’?

Worryingly, it isn’t a new phrase, it was popularised by a 1970 book called ‘Future shock’ where author Alvin Toffler argued that the pace of technological change — nearly 45 years ago — was so fast that people were suffering from information overload.

He’s 85 now and a futurist consultant still making pretty astute observations. However, one of his most famous has proved to be very accurate.

According to a University of California study, the average person can consume up to 100,000 words of information in 24 hours. Conservative estimates say that 17 new web pages are published every second. It’s hard to imagine where an information overload even came from in 1970.

So we claim we are multitasking, which sounds productive, but often isn’t. Depending on your preferences, you can filter out the noise and focus on information that matters most to you by:

• Being honest with yourself — if you’re a procrastinator, information overload is a great excuse for inertia and appearing busy. Ask the question — is this helping or hindering me? What should my main effort be right now? Is this getting me closer to my objectives? Successful people do this well and focus their effort on impact.

• Making a list of priorities — it sounds obvious but it will help you plan your day into deadlines. This will make it clear when you need to focus, and when you can stop and let the information back in. You may find it useful to set specific times in your diary to do specific things, a very good way to power through the things that matter.

• Turning off the pipeline — email and social channels are fantastic business tools but the constant drip can pull you in many different directions. The world won’t end if you only check them on the hour or after you’ve finished a big task. Use an application like Hootsuite to filter your followers into specific specialist timelines to stay ultra efficient and cut down dead browsing time. Log out of your e-mail if it’s vital you get something done.

• Using technology to beat infobesity — there are a wealth of apps and tricks to collate, schedule, group and filter all the information you need to process during a day. reQall, for instance, keeps check of all your to-do lists and reminders so you don’t have to, while virtual assistant EasilyDo can find, collate and provide you with the information you need when you need it.

• Play by the rules. Create rules on your inbound e-mail to automatically filter non-urgent information into folders. Items like systemised reports, newsletters and Linkedin updates. Schedule time to go back to them and then batch process your reading. This reduces interruptions and alerts.

For more advice and thinking from Phil and other inspirational business figures visit www.brother.co.uk/spark