20101020

You don't have time for this! Or anything else! ...but...

As long as you're here, please add your own examples of how the "overload" is affecting your life. ... and which kinds of overload?
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VARIETY OF OVERLOADS:
-Message Overload (How many kinds of messages do you check daily? hourly?)
-Information Overload
-Options Overload (Too many attractive, viable choices!)
-Expectations Overload (Gilbert's Law: "Expectations grow faster than resources.")
-"I can't keep up with my _______" Overload (You fill in the blank)
...More.... ????

30 comments:

Starrett said...

I get loads of messages every day. Filters help. I have recently learned to filter spam in Eudora. I have also learned to do other work while in the office and read email at home, let's me get 805 work done when others are around for calls, meetings, etc. and then email at my own pace at night.

stevenb said...

My personal overload is pretty bad for April. Something like three presentations (still getting ready for two of them). Just finished two brief essays (about 1200 words), and have three manuscripts in various stages of revision. Since I just started teaching a course last week, I'll have about 15 papers to review and grade each week. I certainly like staying busy - but I think having an efficient system for "keeping up" and staying organized helps to combat random overload. You suggest I don't sleep SteveG, but I'm going to go do that soon.

Phillip D. Long said...

Overload? I'm not sure what that is - isn't working what you do while awake? I agree wth Starrett that spam filters are wonderful. I get maybe 80 messages day after filtering. Some of those are lists or digests so it's not too bad. The filtering removes hundreds a day.

I do think there is a huge danger of confusing activity (busyness) with productivity (getting closer to an intended goal/objective). I've tried to 'schedule' myself for meetings with myself but, I find I'm too busy...

Steve Gilbert TLT Group said...

Phil Long says somethng about scheduling a meeting with himself... Not a good idea for me. Since I'm so chronolgically challenged, I would probably be late!

Rob Stephenson said...

I agree totally with the principle of the Overloaditorium. We've got to turn things around 360 degrees if we want to get anywhere!

Steve Gilbert TLT Group said...

Email clog/disaster!
Do you find something like this happening to yourself or people you know too often?
Excerpt from a reply I received 4/14/2005 to email I sent on 3/21 in which I invited this person to participate in a brief telephone panel:
"Darn it. Steve, I - belatedly - appreciate this offer and deeply apologize for not responding. My email has been a total disaster for the last month, with random ingoing and outgoing getting lost without warning, intermittently. I *would* have loved to be part of this but only JUST now saw the message. I could just about scream. *Please* ask me again!"

And, I will ask him again!

Anonymous said...

Ha. I am one of those who absolutely loves the current hectic pace of communications when everything is working well. I very much sympathize with the correspondent Steve quotes at 1:28 pm ;-) when things do not work well.

The technology lets us do more, learn more, be entertained more but when we come to rely on it, it's a disaster when it doesn't work.

I find that I 'send myself' a dozen or more email messages a day, relabeling the subject line to enable me to filter my inbox to locate things I need to pay further attention to.

My best tool: I bought a foot shop mirror (you know, angled upwards so that you can view your foot from above) when a local store was going out of business. I keep it on my desk and use dry erase markers to post my daily schedule and make important notes as the day goes on. At the end of each day I take a digital image of it and store them away for further reference.

- Terry Calhoun

Joe Beckmann said...

A friend was expelled from Tajekistan after the events in the Ukraine made "democracy" a complicating presence. He had two dogs and, when he finally bribed their freedom to travel, arrived weary and, at least in the case of one of the dogs, pregnant. So, along with the normal business of daily living, we now live with 9 increasingly large, wonderfully socialized exotic German Shephards from Central Asia in a normal live-work single bedroom house, both working, shovelling, writing, phone and cell phoning, with clients and projects scattered in two hemispheres and about 20 time zones. There's plenty of time.

Steve Gilbert TLT Group said...

Terry Calhoun suggests that sending email messages to himself helps... but doesn't that also add to the email volume? And reflect the amount of attention many of us are giving to email? I think that I'm checking my email too often for "interesting" new arrivals without processing and disposing of the bulk of what has arrived - so that too much accumulates.

Steve Gilbert TLT Group said...

Have you found ways of ignoring your incoming email for a couple hours at a time?

Rebecca said...

As a librarian, I'm very much aware of information overload. I've recently been reading articles having to do with the "attention economy." What we as librarians need to figure out how to do is to create attention structures that can help people focus on information that is relevant to their needs--we need to learn from advertising and marketing, I would guess. Not sure how that will work.

And yes, I'm overloaded, and I procrastinate from stress. Not a good combination.

Contemplative Scholar said...

I've gotten more efficient over time, but I still feel chronically overloaded. One day I was puzzling about this and finally realized that it is because there has been a steady increase of demands on my time and attention, and this increase slightly outpaces the increase in my efficiency. Sigh.

Steve Gilbert TLT Group said...

I like the image suggested by "Contemplative Scholar" of a kind of arms race between our ability to work more efficiently or effectively and the increase in the amount of info coming at us and other demands on our time.

Steve Gilbert TLT Group said...

Too many of us are "whelmed" most of the time!
I like to ask people if they are already overwhelmed by their personal overload. Or, I suggest, if not quite overwhelmed, perhaps they are merely "whelmed."
How about you?

SS-UDM said...

Isn't this just like all of life, or the rest of it? Where you need to set appropriate boundaries and learn not to respond or act on every great idea you have. If you have a boss who is overloading you, then take you list of things and ask your boss to help prioritize them. When it comes to technology with a low-tech boss, it helps to try to estimate times to complete something. It's usually ignorance, they just don't realize how long some things take.

Another point is delegation. Is there someone else who you can involve in getting things done?

Evaluate the process, both for necessity and the steps it takes to do something. Usually I find it is work smarter, not work harder that needs to be my mantra.
Sarah L Swart
University of Detroit mercy

Bernadette said...

At this my current of email communication I feel 'whelmed but not quite overwhelmed . Interestingly, there are also days when I feel under-whelmed, when I have an empty responsibility plate. In fact, I find feeling under-whelmed more challenging to deal with than feeling overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed calls for better organization, prioritization, the ability to say no or not now, asking for help, and locating resources.

Under-whelmed means dealing with boredom, underutilization burnout, and listening to the incessant ticking of the clock on my wall. I don't have the nifty set of tools that I use for being overwhelmed.

Perhaps this is why I tend to lean more in the direction of risking being overwhelmed, because at least I know how to deal with that.

Bernadette

Anonymous said...

Speaking as one who is continuosly dealing with high volumes of email especially, but also often feeling overloaded with projects, writing commitments, a lot of travel, young children to be raised, and other family obligations, the one thing that has helped me in recent years was to combine my personal and professional "to do" lists into one, and to make sure that everything makes it to the list. It has helped with anziety about not getting things done....

Cynthia Golden
cgolden@educause.edu

Lorena said...

How about Seasonal Affective Overload? My colleagues tell me summer used to be a time for projects and recharge - now its the 12-month university and
summer is still the time for projects, but more and more just another semester in terms of everything else. Its *summer*, but its channeling October! I love a fast pace, but I also think we need to take (or make!) opportunities to relax. The hard part, of course, is dealing with things when you come back from your relax! Perhaps its less of a "take time off and relax" thing and more of a "use my time differently when I can" mindset...

Drew Smith said...

The e-mail overload during the past 12 months has been the worst. Sometimes I wonder if people have forgotten how to use a telephone in order to ask a complex question!

Steve Gilbert TLT Group said...

Hmmm... would it actually help our overall overload if people used the telephone more? Would they be likely to reduce their email activity?

Anonymous said...

I like what Sarah Swart said about having your boss prioritize your work when your workload is more than double what a person can do in a workday. My boss and I have just done this and now my prioritized list will only take 12 hours a day of work time compared to the previous 18 hours a day. But my work day is only eight hours a day. I guess this is progress. ;-} Katharine Mason

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that complex questions are better asked and answered over the phone. -- Matt gordon

sally g said...

Lately I've been struck by the possibility of tracking or capturing or counting or assessing everything! The technology helps to make this sort of tracking possible and facilitates reporting in many forms and formats. But we don't really need to track everything. It's a seductive overload opportunity.

David Smith said...

There's a time-honored activity you can do to illustrate an important facet of de-overloading. If you take a conatiner and get some sand and rocks. Put the rocks in first, then fill it with sand. Now, dump everything out and put the sand in first - you will find that the rocks do not fit.

I try (but do not often succeed) to do the "rocks" of my day - the very important productivity tasks - first, before dealing with the "sand," the less important or smaller tasks. If you fit the sand around the rocks, more of it will go into your day. If too much of your email is sand, then don't even open it until you have accomplished at least one major "rock" task for the day. I find I am often more productive if I leave my email for late morning.

Another tool is to sort your tasks by urgency and importance (imagine, or use, a 2x2 grid). You may find a lot of your time being spent on tasks that are urgent but not important and not enough time being spent on tasks that are important, but not urgent. Of course, the killer is spending time on tasks that are neither important nor urgent - all too easy to do.

Dave Smith, Da Vinci Discovery Center

Drew Smith said...

Hmmm, I'm still trying to figure out what the last 4 digits mean...if 2006 is the year, does that mean we're already into April and I missed the first 3 months already? I'm more behind than I thought!

Anonymous said...

I found that after many years of trying to keep up with everyone else's expectations for me that I was tired, sick, and everyone was angry because I had not gotten something done.
I took a year where I was not available as I was living in another state teaching online.
Now that I am back, people have forgotten to ask me to do things so I can do my job and not everyone elses. I have also said "no" to quite a few new requests.
I may not impress anyone with my productivity, but I feel a lot more sane!
Sometimes it is more than priorities - it is making some difficult choices.

Charles Ansorge said...

Saying "yes" when I should say "no" has resulted in me being my own worst enemy and most responsible for my current state of being overloaded. By this point in my life I should have figured out what was important to me and what I should spend my time doing. My problem is that there are so many more things I want to learn in my lifetime that I have difficulty making that decision of what is important. At least I'm not bored, but being overloaded means some things just don't get done as they should. Such is life.

SS-UDM said...

I highly recommend finding a way to retire early and then find some supplemental work if you are nearing retirement age. I did this (and retired with my husband) and am amazed at how little money we actually need to live comfortably.

Milwaukee Divorce Lawyer said...

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Gwen said...

I got so overloaded this spring with three jobs and a remodel project that I changed emotionally. I was just an empty person "doing." My friends were inundated with descriptions of my "doing." And to get beyond it, I had to work harder and faster to get it all done (before I collapsed). It felt like I was struggling for my life.

It has been several months of purposeful withdrawal from "doing." Funny, when I'm not "doing," I have room to play or be bored. I have even developed a hobby.

I am afraid "overloading" myself is way of covering up for a fear of what I will discover in the quiet times. But I am determined to discover those and make a permanent resolution to not overload myself again.

Now I need to rebuild my relationships. When overloaded, relationships don't get the care and nurturing they need to thrive.