What are the relevant factors that drive or result from information overload?

Thomas asked this question during the PMI Learning, Education and Development Community of Practice presentation I gave about Collaboration Tools for Project Managers. We were talking about using social media tools at work for communication and collaboration, and – of course – the topic of information overload came up.

Normally I’m asked how to deal with information overload, so it was interesting to get a question about what drives it and what happens as a result of it – it made me think!

Here’s my response.

What drives information overload:

  • An insistence that all communication goes through you
  • Lack of trust in the team
  • The team’s lack of trust in each other, so they include you in all communication
  • A failure to see what is relevant to the task being done
  • Being copied in to things ‘for information only’
  • Not managing your software tool alerts effectively and getting alerts for absolutely everything
  • Not managing interruptions effectively
  • Sleep deprivation

What results from information overload:

  • Stress
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Constant interruptions which dents productivity
  • A feeling that we are really important because people need us all the time (this isn’t good, by the way)
  • A full inbox, but normally full of stuff that isn’t really important
  • A project that slows down due to bottlenecks in communication
  • Difficulty archiving everything and therefore difficulty finding anything
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of trust in the team (yes, it’s a virtuous circle)

What else would you add to these lists? Follow me on Instagram and let me know!


  1. At least in an organizational context, I feel IO impact falls into four areas: Loss of time (about 1 day/week), loss of mental acuity (creativity, decision quality, quality thinking), damage to organizational processes (meetings, planning, internal communications), and of course stress and reduced quality of life. I have a series of four articles analyzing these factors in detail at http://www.nathanzeldes.com/resources/articles/

  2. We just released a podcast on information overload and cutting through the digital clutter. Essentially, it’s simple – maintaining focus is how you can reach success. With constant access to new trends and updates, it’s hard to not be bogged down by details. To build on the virtuous circle information overload and stress leads to sleep deprivation – not good for any project manager.

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