Escape Information Overload


It’s a constant battle. You receive more messages than can be read. Finding the right information is a continual drain on your time. Teamwork seems fragmented.

Despite the hours spent in meetings and numerous messages, still nobody has a clear picture of progress. Your IT (Information Technology) has created more information, but it’s not organised information.

This is a common theme for organisations everywhere. It impacts productivity, decision making and personal well-being.

Key Takeaways:

  • Draw the architecture of your digital office,
  • Use business chat as the primary internal communication tool (not email),
  • Work together to identify the right channel and notification structure,
  • Use good visual displays where possible (a picture is worth a thousand words),
  • Interrogate your digital communication practices and agree a “Team Guide”.

What can be done to escape information overload?

Here are 5 tips that work really well.  They’ve helped other companies to create happier and more successful workplaces.

Tip 1:
Design Your Dream Digital Office

Over the last few years many workspaces have just “emerged”. The trend towards self-service software allowed employees to create and customise their own team spaces, in theory allowing individuals to control their own experience.

Unfortunately this often happened without training or guidance, resulting in a haphazard virtual labyrinth. When digital spaces aren't organised you may find it more difficult to access information. People don't have a primary digital space to work in. Colleagues regularly request access to files stored elsewhere and it's not clear who has access to key information.  As you begin to customise your digital spaces with additional apps and integrations, the picture becomes more confusing.

By sketching your ideal digital office as a physical space it’s much easier to figure out requirements.  Spaces should have a clear purpose. Any integrations or customisations should support that purpose.

As a general rule, create 1 core digital space for each team to work.  Then support that team to configure the space to suit their work style. You can also add spaces to socialise, make important announcements or innovate across teams.

A good design will:

  • Easily connect people to the information needed to complete their work,
  • Give people a quiet place to focus,
  • Provide awareness and oversight of work happening around them,
  • Support coordination across teams or departments.

NB. While people may need access to multiple spaces, they don’t need to be present in every space.
In the digital world we can be everywhere at once, but this is a major cause of information overload. Getting the right configurations makes a huge difference!

At Hoot & Company I’ve developed a series of activities to help companies identify and configure their ideal workspace structure.
Step 1 is to create a rough sketch.

Workshop Diagram of a Digital Workspace
Before optimising your digital space, first visualise your digital environment as a physical space with rooms, tables, whiteboards, and filing cabinets.

Tip 2:
Don’t Overuse Email

Use a business chat app as the primary messaging tool for internal communication.

The trouble with email is that it’s a single channel for all your messages. It’s like keeping all your possessions in 1 giant cupboard. Yes, you can have email rules and folders (and you should), but business chat apps have more features to enable control over messaging.

The chat structure will usually align with the digital spaces created. When you enter the finance workspace you can see the finance team chat, financial files and links to finance apps.

Owl Cartoon

Tip 3:
Optimise Your Channels and Notification Settings

Stay informed without intrusive notifications.

You can usually adjust chat and email notifications to change sound, pop up or visual display.

However, business chat apps allow you to customise your notification settings in every channel.

This is a game changer because it allows oversight of conversation topics without continual interruption.

  • Perhaps you need access to messages from a particular team but don't need to be interrupted with a notification after every message. You can also request a single summary message every 8 or 24 hours.


  • Perhaps you only want to be notified immediately if someone sends you a direct message, if you’re specifically mentioned or if someone is replying to your message.


  • You can create a channel for company wide announcements, important news or social conversations. You can then prioritise or distance yourself from this type of communication at different times.


  • With the right configurations you can ensure people don’t miss an urgent message.  Also they won’t be regularly interrupted or need to turn off all messaging in order to focus.


  • You’ll spend less time looking for messages because they will be stored in organised channels. Replies are held in conversation threads which are easier to follow than in email.
Example of Slack and MS-Teams notification options.
Example of Slack and MS-Teams notification options.

Here is a quick example of how we apply this tip:

Identify the purpose of each channel.
Separate people broadly into 2 groups.
1. Core members of the channel (the people who work directly within the channel)
2. Those who need awareness/oversight of the channel’s activities

Configure settings so Group 1 are actively notified, while Group 2 have access or receive summary messages.

Notification Actvities
Activities to plan settings and decide working practices

Points to remember:

Ensure your people are fully trained. They should know how to amend their own settings as required (and when to open or turn off the app). Functionality such as the ability to @mention or direct message can initially be confusing. This can result in unseen messages.

Appoint a team member(s) to take responsibility for ensuring everyone directs their messages into the correct channels.

Set up an improvement process to reflect and refine changes.

This article titled Turning Communication Frustrations into a Clear Implementation Plan may also interest you and covers a more in depth approach.

Whiteboard activity to identify improvements.
A rapid "Note and Vote" session to identify and fix frustrations

Tip 4:
Create a Team Guide

Getting on the same page isn't easy, but taking a short amount of time to write down new practices can save hours of stress and confusion. This activity also helps your people think through changes and avoid pitfalls before they happen.

When members of the same team have different communication expectations, problems arise. So it's crucial to establish a set of guidelines that clearly state:

  • Which tool to use for each type of communication,
  • How quickly team members should respond on each communication platform,
  • When it’s ok to turn notifications off,
  • The best method of communicating if a reply is urgent (usually a phone call for remote teams)
  • Each team or team member’s default configurations,
  • The team’s chosen best practices.

This prevents people from getting frustrated because they don't get an immediate response through a particular channel. It also removes decision fatigue as team members always know which medium to use, boosting productivity and employee happiness.

N.B. Best results are usually achieved by creating a template company guide, then allowing each team the leeway to discuss options and agree their own internal best practice.

Team Guide Cover

Tip 5:
Use Visual Tools

Often a Picture Really Does Save a Thousand Words.

Using visual displays can be one of the best ways to reduce information overload.  Using visual tools to display a single source of truth can save sending countless messages.

Instead of chasing for updates in chat or meetings, use a task board. There are so many good reasons to use task management tools but when it comes to information overload a well configured task board provides an instant overview of progress.  This will highlight risk, where to focus attention and allow teams to connect and support each other much better.

You get information about activities happening around you without disturbing people. Not only does this save a massive amount of time but more people can stay informed.  With 24/7 access these tools can be indispensable for flexible working.

A Trello board
Tools range in sophistication, but even simple apps such as Trello (above) can show impeded work activities, priorities and assignees.

Use business intelligence (BI) tools for data visualisation.  Modern business intelligence aims to be “self-service”, allowing everyone in the business to access with ease the answers to their questions about various initiatives and activities. Furthermore, both Google Data Studio and Microsoft Power BI are available with free versions.

With modern BI, you can follow up any changes instantly and on the go, and statistics are presented on a visual dashboard that makes complex information easy to understand.

Put simply you get better insights without having to disturb anyone. This can widen access to information among employees and lead to significantly improved coordination and innovation.

If you are an organisation that loves a spreadsheet then data can be pulled automatically to create the reports.  This means you can continue to store information on your spreadsheet but due to automation you get amazing interactive reports without any effort.

Example Power BI Dashboard
Example Power BI Dashboard

Do You Need Help Organising Your Workspace?

I help my clients get the most out of their technology. Do you spend too much time figuring out how each tool works?  Is there work you would rather focus on?

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