Infobesity: The little-known problem that’s killing your decision making
In 2025, it’s estimated that the world will create, capture, copy, or consume around 181 zettabytes of data (equal to 181,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes). That’s a lot of information accessible by almost anyone on the internet, which is a big problem if you’re not prepared to deal with it.
Already, there are signs that knowledge workers are overwhelmed by the data they need to find, understand, and base decisions on. It’s called infobesity, essentially a state where someone is consuming more info than their mind can handle, leading to a situation where more information leads to worse outcomes. As more and more information becomes available on the web, infobesity will become more common. People will find themselves more overwhelmed and less capable of making crucial decisions as more time is spent just combing through the latest reports, articles, and emails necessary for their job.
The best way to overcome infobesity (and boost your mental energy) is to understand what it is, why it’s affecting you, and take steps to limit its effects. The world isn’t going to be creating any fewer data and info any time soon. If you’re going to continue to thrive in the information age, it’s time to learn how to deal with infobesity and come out the other side a better leader and decision maker for it.
What is infobesity?
Infobesity (also called infoxication or information overload) is a term that describes a condition where people become so overwhelmed with data that it hinders their ability to make decisions.
The problem is that good decisions are based on good data. Traditionally, the more data you could collect and understand, the better decisions you could make. However, there can be too much of a good thing.
As all fields and sources began to create more data, the amount of information a single decision-maker has to consume has grown exponentially. That means more time spent every day trying to cope with all of the information being thrown at you.
The result of all of this? Well, it’s not good.
Why infobesity is such a problem
Infobesity is a wide-scale problem that’s damaging the ability of knowledge workers to effectively do their jobs. The negative effects of infobesity include:
- Stress and frustration due to the ever-growing queue of things to read.
- Wasted time looking for information you’d previously accessed.
- Indecision stemming from too much data.
- Poor retention of data as there’s no time to process what you’ve read.
This problem is becoming more widespread as more people work online. OpenText ran surveys in 2020 and 2022 to see how people were handling information overload. Only 31% of respondents said information overload added stress to their jobs in 2020; it rose to 80% in 2022.
For an individual worker, infobesity hampers their ability to do their job. On a company-wide scale, it devastates production and efficiency, making it nearly impossible for your teams to hit goals or manage their workloads. Luckily, there are solutions for infobesity at both the individual and company-wide scale.
How to combat infobesity
Infobesity doesn’t need to be accepted without a fight. Now that you know what the problem is, here are some concrete ways to fight and overcome it.
Limit the data you access
Priority #1 is to make sure that you’re only dealing with the data that’s most crucial for what you do. For a couple of days, make a list of all of the information and information sources you’re accessing or consuming. Next, find ways to cut out anything that’s not positively adding to your ability to do your job.
Some tips for doing this include:
- Clean up your inbox by marking unwanted emails as spam, politely pushing back on unnecessary emails from colleagues, and unsubscribing from newsletters you no longer read.
- Leave or silence Slack channels you don’t actively follow or participate in.
- Create a list of reputable resources and publications that you’ll review to keep up to date on the latest trends in your industry.
Block off time for specific tasks
Set aside a part of your schedule each day to deal with specific tasks that might add to infobesity. For instance, you could leave half an hour every morning to read recent publications in your field or set aside an hour after lunch to go through your inbox.
By blocking off your schedule this way, you’ll be able to:
- Set defined amounts of time for research, which stops you from wasting time going down rabbit holes.
- Limit context switching, so you work more efficiently.
- Create deadlines that encourage timely decision-making.
- Avoid interruptions to your flow as that block is completely devoted to that task..
Create systems that allow for easier knowledge management
It’s easy to have your work and files spread across multiple devices, programs, and locations. But that makes it so you not only have to remember what you're trying to find but also where it is. As much as you possibly can, limit the number of data silos you need to access every day to make searching and organizing them less of a chore.
Some ways to collect your data in one place include:
- Using an email client to house all of your email addresses.
- Investing in multi-purpose systems that will allow for all kinds of data to be kept in one place.
- Encouraging colleagues to only message through one medium, be it Slack, Teams, or email.
Use a personal knowledge management tool
Part of the problem with getting so much information is that you’re never certain where any of it is. Instead of spending hours each week trying to find a specific email, slide, or article, use a personal knowledge management tool like Heyday.
Heyday uses AI to keep track of the information you consume so that when you need to find something, it can recommend resources you’ve already accessed. That saves you the time and effort it would have taken to retrace your digital steps so you can use your time more efficiently.
Heyday can also help you by:
- Improving the quality of your Google searches by resurfacing content you’ve accessed before.
- Showing you past research you’ve done to help you understand articles you’re currently reading.
- Creating a knowledge base for you to review if you need a refresher on the most important aspects of a topic.
Try out Heyday for free with our 14-day free trial.
Take control of your information diet
The world won’t be creating less data anytime soon, so it’s important that knowledge workers quickly adjust and learn how to cope. Part of that adjustment will be learning how to research smarter with modern strategies that’ll save you time and bring about better results.
Level up your research skills
Check out our guide on research strategies. You’ll learn the best ways to conduct research efficiently, so you can reduce infobesity while keeping up to date with all of the information you need.