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Blurry GreenToday I came across an interesting paper on Infomania — the deadly combination of email overload and constant interruptions. It's a challenging piece, which really got me thinking about Infomania's impact in my work and personal life.

Written by Nathan Zeldes, David Sward and Sigal Louchheim, the paper describes the severe effects of Infomania on productivity and quality of life for knowledge workers, as well as its impact on businesses:

In this work, we show that this phenomenon places knowledge workers and managers worldwide in a chronic state of mental overload. It exacts a massive toll on employee productivity and causes significant personal harm, while organizations ultimately pay the price with extensive financial loss.

Lately, I've been much more aware of interruptions and how they work against my productivity. I've spent about a month setting up my new home office, trying to establish a regular work pattern after the move — It's been difficult. In this in-between state I can see how damaging interruptions can be.

Fortunately, my office and work patterns have now stabilized, and I'm eliminating interruptions and distractions. Even so, there are always temptations to allow interruptions to steal my focus.

Solving this problem would have a positive and immediate impact on organizational results, while restoring computer–based communications technology to its rightful role as promoter of personal and organizational effectiveness.

I have more recently felt the need to physically avoid my office on weekends and evenings. I just want to be somewhere else, so I can recharge for the next day's work.

It's not for a lack of loving what I do — design work, my clients, and the company I work for — there is something deep within me that yearns for separation.

Time away from the computer during the workday is refreshing. I'm fortunate that a large portion of my work is research, thinking and sketching with pencil and paper.

What about your situation?
Do you feel the pressure of Infomania at work, at home? Do you have established times away from technology for refreshment? Have a journal you can write, sketch and get away from technology in?

I recommend Reading the paper and pondering the evidence.

Thanks to Dave Gray for the Infomania link!

Reader Comments (7)

As to the valid "need to physically avoid my office on weekends and evenings" - unfortunately, for many that's like a turtle wanting to physically avoid its shell - the office moves with them, wherever they go, in this day of mobile computing and "work everywhere". It calls for much discipline to draw the line these days.

Glad you liked our paper - you can check our blog posts at for updates on what we're doing about the problem at Intel.
August 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Zeldes
Interesting paper Mike, and good coping strategies Nathan.I wonder how widespread the problem is, or if it comes largely from sizable companies.
August 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJuan
For the last 7 years, I have worked in complex space projects that involve a large number of parties reporting to me from different countries. Believe me, it is difficult to disconnect from the virtual, pressing World; however, it not impossible. Here I mention a few tips.

+ There is nothing more refreshing than being logged-off the email account for a good part of the working day. So far, I have not come across something so urgent that needs a reaction in the very second. Not even the most urgent is worth that dependency from the computer.

+ I do carry my laptop during business trips. Not only you travel light, but helps you organizing and focusing your mind to what is really important for that trip.

+ As for the mobile phone, the boldest I have come across is the strategy of my friend Raj. After 18:00, he does not accept any phone call that is work related. I have heared him answering his boss like this, "hi boss! I am at the golf course! at what time are you joining me?"... and it works! at least for him! I prefer not to give my mobile number to anyone in my professional circles.

+ Managing interruptions in an office environment is rather crude. I tend to be just slightly unpolite if it is not convenient. Typical interruptions are "how to do this?" or "when to do that?" which to me are signs of too much dependency. I cannot refrain from replying "you should know that! Don't you know you own work?"

It's a tough daily challenge! Good luck!
August 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJavier
Well, Juan, since I started working on this problem I was contacted by scores of organizations on four continents, who all professed to suffering from email overload; and they included Fortune 500 corporations and small companies, high schools and universities, municipalities and government organizations, churches and non-profits... so I can say with certainty that Infomania impacts all sizes and types of organizations. The difference, I can conjecture, is that the larger a company, the greater the fraction of the problem that is internally generated (i.e. emails from within the company rather than external spam).
August 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Zeldes
Great Blogg, I just discovered you through a google search on Moleskin Planners, I like your design for it very much, I'm going to follow your lead here and convert my own moleskin for 2008 ---> I'm blogrolling you, I need to keep up on your great ideas.
September 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGregor
That was a very interesting article! Thanks! Gave some insights into my present work patterns...
September 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRev Cruz
Nathan, thanks for the visit and comments. I do feel fortunate to be able to turn things off and walk away, because I know several friends who have a really hard time with it.

That's not to say I'm not drawn to fiddling online more than I should. :-)

Thanks for the link to your blog. Already spotted a post about William Gibson, so it looks quite interesting.

Javier � great thoughts and ideas for coping with infomania. I think it really comes down to a realization there is a problem and then setting up boundaries for yourself. If you don't set boundaries, it's very easy to get sucked up in an always-on state as a default pattern.

Thanks for the comments everyone!
September 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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