4 Strategies to Cope with Information Explosion
Just when you thought your Monday morning couldn’t be more hectic, you’re bombarded with tons of unread emails, pings from Slack, meeting reminders, and Google calendar alerts. And it’s just 9am!
Build Up to Information Explosion
Unfortunately, information explosion is a common occurrence that is affecting many workplaces. In fact, a recent survey found that more than a third (36%) of 300 C-suite executives from major organisations across 16 countries felt that their organizations are not coping well with information overload.
If you’re looking for the culprit, it’s the advancement of ICT and the resulting mushrooming of information sources. Yes, these multiple sources made accessing information quicker, but it came at the cost of drowning you and your team with information deluge.
Different dimensions of information also catalyzed information overload. Older information types like newspapers and emails never seem to go obsolete. And newer ones such as podcasts and wiki articles never stop growing. Just wading through them is enough to cause headaches.
What’s worse is that of these voluminous and varied nuances of information, you can’t always find the relevant information. Think about it, as the project manager, anything related to a project – from stakeholder requirements to status updates – gets channelled to you. Even irrelevant ones are shared with you! Your job then gets unnecessarily time-consuming as you need to search for the right information.
Unfortunately, trying to process a vast amount of information with limited cognitive information-processing capacity and inadequate time only puts you and your team in the epicenter of an information explosion!
Fallout of Information Explosion
And the aftermath of this information explosion spells trouble for your team and your projects.
Firstly, your team’s collaboration efforts may get exhausted. With tons of information floating around, determining which task needs urgent attention, or which status update is relevant becomes a guessing game. There might even be tension brewing within your team, which can greatly shrink workplace productivity.
Another repercussion is dull cognitive skills. In fact, research found that information overload causes Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) – a neurological phenomenon. Managers suffering from ADT may face difficulties specifying project priorities, managing time efficiently, and even making smart business decisions.
Consequently, the overall project quality may be substandard – a big no-no to project management.
Strategies to Cope with Information Explosion
So, for the sake of your sanity, your team’s productivity, and your project’s quality, information explosion must be controlled. Here are four strategies that can help you to cope with information explosion and the ways to adapt them into your daily operations:
1. Filtering Strategy
This strategy involves sifting through information to remove low-quality and irrelevant information. One way to adopt this strategy into your workflow is by leveraging automation tools that can relieve you of unnecessary information. For example, make use of email inbox rules to efficiently move emails into their designated folders and turn on alerts only for important ones.
Modern project management software like Jira also incorporates filtering strategies in its workflows. For instance, with Jira’s ability to create adaptive workflows, you can rely on triggers to automatically transition tasks. Irrelevant notifications and hurdles during handoffs will then be successfully minimized.
2. Withdrawing Strategy
Perhaps the easiest strategy that you can adopt, withdrawing enables you to cap the number of daily information sources you consume. This is to protect yourself from being buried by an avalanche of information. Maybe it is high time that you had opted out of that irrelevant email thread? And the Slack channel that keeps pinging you about office lunch? It’s best to just silence it.
Another approach to this strategy is by taking it literally and withdrawing yourself from tasks. Give autonomy to your team and assign project roles to them appropriately. Not only will your team learn to practice good judgement and polish their skills, you will be freed from too much information. You get to kill two birds with one stone; now this is multitasking done right!
While you’re at it, set expectations for your team, including their workflows and how they present information like status updates and client feedback to you. Doing so will greatly protect you and your team from incorrect information.
3. Queueing Strategy
Just like planning a project whereby you prioritize tasks according to their importance and relevance, this strategy requires you to do the same with information. For best results, classify your notifications into four clear categories:
- For immediate action;
- To be completed at a later time;
- For future reference;
- To be deleted.
Queueing your notifications means that you bulk process your notifications instead of checking them every time you get an alert.
Furthermore, bulk processing and grouping similar tasks together based on their importance also helps you understand which information needs your immediate attention and which one doesn’t. And what’s better to queue your tasks than with tried and tested project management features like Gantt chart and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)? No matter how modern your project management software is, integrating these features ensures that you stay on top of efficient resources management and timely project execution.
4. Multiple Channels Strategy
As you might have guessed, this strategy involves using several channels for organized information transmission and communication. A practical approach would be to formulate a tactical communication plan. Then dispense and receive information correctly in relevant channels. For example, instant messaging tools are best reserved for communicating urgent important information. If an in-depth discussion is required, then opt for a face-to-face discussion instead. Emails, on the other hand, are suitable for general interest information like company-wide announcements.
Take Home Message
Information, when managed and used properly, strengthens knowledge that can be used to drive your team’s productivity and accomplish business goals. Take the steps explained above to ensure that you or your team don’t fall victim to information overload.