Always-on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity, and making us unhappy. For all the benefits of the information technology and communications revolution, it has a well-known dark side: information overload and its close cousin, attention fragmentation … no needed uninterrupted time to synthesize information from many different sources, reflect on its implications for the organization, apply judgment, make trade-offs, and arrive at good decisions.
What we hope to do in this article is remind three simple things. First, multitasking is a terrible coping mechanism. A body of scientific evidence demonstrates fairly conclusively that multitasking makes human beings less productive, less creative, and less able to make good decisions.
Second, addressing information overload requires enormous self-discipline. A little like recovering addicts, must labor each day to keep themselves on track by applying timeless yet powerful guidelines: find time to focus, filter out the unimportant, forget about work every now and then.
Third, since executives’ behavior sets the tone for the organization, they have a duty to set a better example. The whole organization’s productivity can now be affected by information overload, and no single person or group can address it in isolation.