In This Edition:
1. Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer
2. Unrelenting Information Generation and Its Perils
3. You Can’t Ingest it All
4. Thoughts to Ponder
Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer
"Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer" are here, but how quickly will they pass? Will it all be one big blur? So much competes for our attention these days that even summer days race by. Since the start of the 1990s, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) has been on the rise, not just among children, but now among the adult population as well. Victims of adult ADD are likely to initiate more tasks and projects than they’ll ever finish, get bored easily, seek thrills readily, be late while loathing having to wait, and not be averse to taking foolish risks. The sudden rise of adult ADD, while it may have genetic components, certainly receives a major boost from our kinetic, hyper-speed, information-bombarded society.
Unrelenting Information Generation and Its Perils
In my book, the "Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Things Done," published by Alpha/Penguin I discuss how enhanced communication technology spawns information overload. In 1905, the typical person generated only a tiny amount of information in his or her entire life, and wrote only a handful of letters. Today, by some estimates, career professionals write 80% to 85% of all original documents.
If the total amount of unique information annually generated in the world were to be parceled out to every man, woman, and child on earth, each person would be given a personal library equivalent to 250 books. One estimate holds that information doubles in the world every 72 days. The Library of Congress catalogues 7,000 new items each day. More than 3,000 new websites go online each day. A minimum of 2,500 books are published worldwide each day. In 1947, the first year Books in Print started collecting data, there were 85,000 titles in existence and 45 publishers listed. Sixty years later, there were more 50,000 publishers in the U.S. alone!
None of us are immune to the information overload shower. The amount of information available often becomes a hindrance to productivity. For example:
* One-third of managers are victims of "Information Fatigue Syndrome."
49% said they are unable to handle the vast amounts of information received. 33% of managers were suffering ill health as a direct result of information overload. 62% admitted their business and social relationships suffer. 66% reported tension with colleagues and diminished job satisfaction. 43% think that important decisions are delayed and their abilities to make decisions are affected as a result of having too much information — Reuters "Dying for Business " report
* Even with the advent of e-books and mobile e-book readers, hardcopy books abound. A single super bookstore offers 150,000+ titles; stocks 2,500 domestic and foreign newspapers, periodicals, and magazines; and can order 200,000 more book titles from national distributors. The children’s section includes 15,000 titles; the music section has 25,000 CDs and cassettes — Barnes and Noble Booksellers
You Can’t Ingest it All
No course that you took in college, no article or book, no mentor, no company training session, nothing you’ve likely experienced thus far in your professional or personal lives has prepared you for functioning smoothly in a world of exponential information generation. The inmates have the keys, the cell doors are open, and data has run amok.
Weirdly, oddly, sadly, the higher the level of distraction, as with information overload, the greater we tend to seek it. You can get things done with electronic gadgetry, but beware, the types of things you get done will be of a certain ilk. Whole other realms of accomplishments may be unknown or out of reach for you. The time has come to be more prudent with what information we allow ourselves to be exposed. If this blog does not offer fresh insights and new perspectives, it would make sense to unsubscribe! And guard other aspects of your personal environment as well.
Long-term trends all but guarantee that in the future, the environment all around you will only get noisier. The distractions will come faster, louder and more furiously. It is vital for us all to regain, or perhaps develop for the first time, the ability to take quiet reflection. In doing so, at first, you will feel as if you’ve been left out of the party, but was it a party you wanted to attend in the first place? And even if you wanted to attend, did you want to attend all the time, at that decibel level, with no breaks?
Thoughts to Ponder
Long-term accomplishments and grand achievements in your career — the big stuff — may require going where you haven’t gone before, to that place and frame of mind where the best of your thoughts can emerge. Soetsu Yanagi, in the Unknown Craftsman writes, "Man is most free when his tools are proportionate to his needs."
When you learn to value quiet reflection over frenetic activity, the breadth and scope of what you can get done improves remarkably. Silence can be golden, but only if you respect it, know how to harness it, and recognize the gift that it has always provided.