Taming and managing digital overload

William Meisel/The Software Society
14 May 2013

What is the biggest problem most of us face today using our digital devices and services? Too much of a good thing.

Email and other messaging systems are wonderful inventions, but we spend too much time going through irrelevant or marginal messages. Web resources are indispensible, but search engines too often return an overwhelming number of options rather than an answer. Social media can be wonderful at times, but also can be overwhelming in their demands. And today’s software and devices have so many features that we often spend more time mastering them than using them.

Some recent “innovations” move us toward even more interruptions, supposedly in the name of efficiency. Google Now and Windows 8 tell us what the software thinks we want to know. (I can tell it is sunny in LA by looking out the window, thank you.) More demands on our attention.

There is a productivity crisis. Driven by an assumption that individuals want more information and more features, most companies are compounding the problem rather than addressing it.

The Software Society suggests that the “personal assistant model” will drive the next wave of technology innovation. How will it address this personal productivity crisis?

The ideal personal assistant would be a pervasive manager of your digital life, whatever device you are using. You tell it what your priorities are, and it avoids interrupting you unless you make a specific request. Most proactive notifications should be the result of specific requests: “Remind me when to leave for my 2:30 meeting.”

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