The Future of Work: Cognitive Load Management

We live in a world of information overload. Our effectiveness depends on our ability to filter and focus.

Each of us must develop our own techniques for handling the overwhelming amount of information thrown at us every day. This could be as simple (yet time consuming) as setting up lists in Twitter, Netvibes or Hootsuite that aggregate information from credible sources, preferably from a wide range of perspectives. Here’s a deeper dive into Five Forms of Filtering.

Photo of Rotman magazine

This is the third article in a series of ten about skills of the future and how we can work on them.

There is a growing opportunity for people who know a lot about a certain area to aggregate or filter for others who are focused on something else. That’s why lots of people have (or read) blogs.

You can help other people filter through your information holdings too. For example, by adding tags to content on GCPEDIA, blogs, pages or posts to help people discover related information.

If you’re organizing a conference — take your lead from the IA Summit lists – speakers for each year, attendees, volunteers, and past speakers lists. I started following the speakers and attendees the year I went, and I still do. It helps me remember how (or if) I know those people.

One of the other best examples I have seen is CanadaInternationalOnline on NetVibes. Martha McLean set it up for her clients – digital diplomats.

Where can you get it?

The easiest way to get started is to follow someone else’s list. For example, Ana Lissansky has lots; I like to lurk on the Government of Canada employees on Twitter. Yes, I realize the irony of saying you need to pull more information into your life rather than less. That’s the reality for most of us knowledge workers; we need to keep on top of what’s happening in our field.

Another source of eternal overload for me is my inbox(es). Priority Management has in-class training in Ottawa on how to manage Outlook effectively. has free training videos on Outlook (and probably other email clients as well).

David Allen is famous for his proprietary method for Getting Things Done that started with a book. His site has a lot of free resources. I haven’t read it, but neither has Joss Whedon and he still follows some of the principles. After you’ve returned from that little rabbit hole, visit the Ultimate Productivity Blog.

The last little tip comes via one of my mentors. After a particularly harried quarter, she confided in me – the toughest thing we have to do is figure out what NOT to do. Word from the wise: sometimes you have to just say no. Go for a walk! Clear your head! Get out into a park, a forest, a field! Put down your phone! Admit you don’t know, don’t have time or don’t want to! What’s the worst that can happen?

Exercise: set up your own information dashboard to help you stay on top of changes in your domain using netvibes, twitter, hootsuite, feedly or pinterest. 


According to Rotman Magazine there are “10 New Skills That Every Worker Needs”. Each week, I’m posting a summary of local (or online), free (or cheap), resources that are appropriate for public sector professionals to gain skills in these areas.

  • Computational Thinking
  • Design Mindset
  • Cognitive Load Management <–We are here
  • New Media Literacy
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Sense Making
  • Social Intelligence
  • Cross-cultural competency
  • Virtual Collaboration
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About Laura

As a Business Analyst working for the Canadian federal government in Web usability, I have the opportunity to be a part of a growing movement of professionals implementing user-centered design principles.
This entry was posted in Public Service Renewal and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Future of Work: Cognitive Load Management

  1. Thank for the mention Laura! Just a note about saying “no”…. I have a hard time with that too because, well, I love doing a lot of different things and I like helping out wherever I believe I can contribute…I just wish there were more hours in the day! P.S. I use other people’s lists too, such as Rebecca Blake’s –>>great for following all major Canadian news outlets and reporters. And, as GC’ers, on Twitter could we live without following the #w2p hashtag? :)

  2. Laura says:

    Thanks Ana! I also have a hard time saying no….I love doing way too many things. :)

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