Information Overload – and burn out

Eric, builds nicely on my last post on “Information Overload” and provides some nice links.  I particularly resonated with the idea of “shutting down” in the face of overload (burn out):

Have you ever found yourself emotionally shutting down in the face of a daunting project list and an overflowing e-mail in-box? I have.   The Air Force calls this Task Saturation and it can manifest itself in many ways. Some people hyper-focus on their email and new-mail alerts to the point where nothing gets done.

David and I made posts on Saturday and Sunday about the UK researcher who found that email distractions can cause a drop in IQ.

Fellow productivity blogger, Bert, from Open Loops, posted an excellent comment about how the military helps its pilots extract themselves from overwhelm before they have to extract themselves from their wreckage:

This has certainly happened to me a few times when I have been on major programmes and just unable to get my mind around what to do next.  In these circumstances I tend to take the following steps:

  • Write everything down on a piece of paper, I often never look at this list again
  • Take afternoons off for a few days, often going for a walk or the cinema, anything to take my conscious mind off the lists.
  • After a few days I find I know what to do again, often what I do is completely re-plan the programme. 
  • The rest period is key for two reasons,  it lets me distill out exactly what’s wrong with things as they were when I hit the overload brick wall and it prepares me for a weeks work re-planning

It’s worth pointing out that I am not a programme planner, however when things get into the state that I hit information overload,  its almost always the case that the programme is out of control, and no planner is ever going to get it back in control from this point, so I pull my architecture team together and we help the planners to sort things out.  Amazingly I have found several times that the planners never realised anything was wrong until the architects said STOP!

For more posts that comment on programme management, checkout this list.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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