Let me tell you about my data obsession. For 20 years, I’ve compulsively written down every fleeting thought, idea, and meeting detail into digital notes, calendars, and reminders. I can’t rely solely on my brain anymore — too much is happening in my busy life! And it’s not just me. We’re all living like this nowadays.
It started when I launched my first startup business after dropping out of college multiple times. I was drowning in endless thoughts, emails, calls, and meetings. If I didn’t furiously take notes and log everything, thoughts would slip away, and essential details would be lost forever. So, I developed elaborate systems to capture it all. Now, I funnel every moment of my days into Notion, Google Calendar, and Things. I’ve tried every to-do list and personal notes app you can imagine. I set alarms to remind myself of every 15-minute meeting. I document irrelevant minutiae that will likely never be looked at again. Why? The thought of missing something critical gives me major anxiety. Some may call it OCD data hoarding, but I call it running a business.
This frenzied fixation on data has also spilled over into my company. We log every task, every reasonable chunk of time, and every Post-It note into complex systems and dashboards. It borders on bureaucracy gone mad — like if we add one more step people need to do, there would be mutiny!
The Allure of Data Across Industries
But are we becoming so obsessed with capturing every detail that we miss the bigger picture?
I’ve noticed a similar pattern at other companies. The motto is: more data is always better! Software products enable endless digital hoarding — look at the overstuffed GDrive of any modern workplace. Analytics teams slice and dice data trying to glean insights — but only for high-priority use cases because who has time to comb through this digital landfill?
In an interview with Alex Woodie from Datanami, Yaniv Mor, CEO of Integrate.io, sheds light on why data hoarding could be a better business practice. According to Mor, data analysts are drowning in data and stuck sifting through billions of data points to find actionable insights. This can overwhelm employees with too much data, making it difficult for them to focus on their work. Additionally, data hoarding can be costly, as data needs to be protected and backed up. At best, says Yaniv Mor, data hoarding is a sign of an unhealthy organization, and at worst, it can act as a drag on the finances and velocity of the business.
Shortening Attention Spans
Meanwhile, studies show our poor brains are multitasking themselves into oblivion. Our attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish! According to Microsoft research from 2015, the average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today. That’s less than a goldfish’s 9-second attention span. Sure, we collect data like crazy…but do we do anything meaningful when we’re distracted every 47 seconds by another notification?
The Costs of Endless Notifications
Just look at the average chaotic CRM — so much noise! It spews endless notifications about customers that get buried almost instantly. Even if you use tags and lists, trying to keep it organized is like wrangling a hyped-up room of kindergarteners hopped up on pixie sticks. Good luck focusing!
Cal Newport, computer scientist and author of the book “Deep Work,” highlights the danger of constant digital distraction. Research shows that, like willpower, direct attention is a finite resource. If you use your direct attention for long enough, you’ll eventually exhaust it.
Focusing on Insights over Data Collection
Business software needs to move beyond just collecting data. The next frontier is about gleaning wisdom — using AI to surface key signals and suggest insights to augment messy human brains. Imagine having an AI assistant who knows you better than you know yourself — nudging you to the right customers and meetings rather than just blasting you with noise. That’s the future I’m eager to build!
For now, even simple steps like consolidating data into a central warehouse will pay dividends later. Start with the end in mind. How can you use tech to empower humans rather than distract them to dysfunction? How can data elucidate rather than obscure? With thoughtfulness, we can create tools that amplify — not hamper — our limited biological hardware.
The data-hoard is here to stay. But it’s time to evolve from mindless collectors to enlightened curators. I don’t have all the answers yet — but the need is clear. Let’s start having the conversations that matter while we still have some semblance of attention left!
Originally published on Medium.com