Uwe Richter of Mindjet International explains that the Internet, and all that it has brought with it, means we now have access to a host of products and services at our fingertips almost wherever we are.
And it doesn’t stop there; accessing information is much the same. Whereas 20, or even 10 years ago, we turned to newspapers and magazines for the latest information and opinions, there are now forums, Twitter and blogs, just to name a few.
It’s impossible to switch off
Having more connected devices, from smartphones to tablets, does mean we are “connected” around the clock.
A side effect of this is that switching off is difficult.
It is all too easy to quickly check our work e-mails when we’re watching television, about to go to bed or even on holiday.
We even have terms like “bleisure” to describe the blurring of business and leisure.
We’re no more efficient
The question is, does all of this result in an efficient way of working? Most of us will admit to being bombarded with information at work meaning that there is little time to stop and take in all that information.
We just end up feeling more confused and overwhelmed.
Drowning in data
Mindjet carried out research last year that confirmed this feeling amongst UK office workers. OnePoll research of 2 000 UK office workers (November), commissioned by Mindjet, showed it is leaving 14% of people unhappy at work.
Echoing this, mental health problems such as stress, cost the UK economy an estimated £26 billion (more than R338 billion) a year in absence, a fall in productivity and staff turnover.
No end in sight
The situation will only get worse as more data is created each year. IDC found that 1.8 zettabytes of new data was generated in 2011 alone – enough to fill 115 billion 16GB iPads.
The answer is finding an effective way of handling all this information and getting the best use from it.
Distinguish the vital from the insignificant
Psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw explains that, while the human brain is highly adaptable, it is not good at multitasking. It is a common myth that brains act like a localised filing system - which they simply can’t.
How to filter what matters
We need a filtering mechanism that can separate the important pieces of information from the unimportant, organising it in a logical way.
Shaw believes this comes from adopting a more visual approach. A concept like information visualisation (like a mind map) helps people better collect, structure, consolidate and act on ideas and concepts.
This type of solution makes it easier to see the connections between different pieces of information and get that all important “bigger picture”.
We need to adapt to our current working environment and find new, better ways of working.
Continuing to plough on, hoping things will quieten down for long enough for us to catch our breath, is not the way to deal with the ever-increasing amounts of information.