Solving the problems of knowledge worker productivity and performance is a daunting prospect, so it makes sense to start with the most simplistic approach to research I know\u2014studying...me. I\u2019ve been known to develop enormous insights about others just by looking at my own problems and approaches. And, as any good Buddhist will tell you, observing oneself is the path to enlightenment. I\u2019m not a Buddhist, mind you, but that\u2019s OK since my aims are more modest than enlightenment: I\u2019m only shooting for a little sanity.Like everybody else these days, I\u2019m feeling a bit overwhelmed by my own personal information and knowledge environment. I have lots of electronic devices\u2014it seems like a lot to me, anyway. For these purposes, I\u2019m intentionally ignoring the devices my family uses, for which I am the first-line (if somewhat reluctant and ineffective) provider of technical support. For my own use, I have a desktop PC at home, a laptop PC that travels with me, a PDA and a typical cell phone. None of them communicates very well with each other (though my PDA, for example, communicates reasonably well with my wife\u2019s and my assistant\u2019s PCs), and I occasionally have to send e-mails from one device to another as if they were distant cousins. I know they could be made to communicate better with each other, but I don\u2019t have time to figure it out, and frankly I am grateful if they are all just working.E-mail has become the core of my information flow, but I get too much of it. I have four addresses, which get forwarded into two different e-mail clients. I know that isn\u2019t ideal, but if you work with multiple organizations, you tend to have multiple e-mail identities. A couple of those identities I access only at home, which makes my response time to them slow, but it keeps me sane.Today I got 72 e-mails through one account and 29 through another, for a total of 101. About a third (a much higher fraction on weekends) were from spammers, which I am coming to believe are the lowest form of life on the planet. I sent out 32 messages during the day. I did all this through a broadband connection in my hotel\u2014pretty cool\u2014and it only cost me $12.95 and the hour I wasted trying to get connected to it. I finally called the front desk for help, and the attendant told me that it wasn\u2019t working but I should keep wasting my time trying to connect because it would probably be working soon.Then there\u2019s my inbox, in which I have 1,716 messages. You may find that scandalous, but it works pretty well for me. I\u2019ve basically created one big filing cabinet for stuff I might need later. I delete about two-thirds of my messages on any given day, and the other third slowly drift up the screen. Every so often I delete a couple hundred old e-mails. I recently attended a time management class in which the instructor suggested emptying your inbox every day, but I found that ludicrous. Maybe I\u2019m just undisciplined, but I find I have to think about a lot of the e-mails I get\u2014or solicit a response from someone else\u2014before I can answer them.I also get lots of voice mails in my three mailboxes\u2014a total of 22 in today\u2019s queue (in part because I didn\u2019t get around to checking them yesterday). I don\u2019t like voice mail very much, and I try not to listen to my messages on my cell phone while driving anymore because I\u2019m tempted to write things down in order to respond\u2014particularly difficult in the car. I hope voice mail goes away soon or gets merged with e-mail. If you want to make my day, call me and hang up. Being able to delete a blank voice message seems a considerable accomplishment.I have consciously chosen not to add certain tools and technologies to my information environment. I don\u2019t do IM, for example. I used it for a while, and I didn\u2019t like having my attention held hostage by anyone who felt like sending me a message. I also don\u2019t have any interest in wireless e-mail. I can\u2019t remember any e-mail that was so important that I needed to read it in a taxi. And I don\u2019t blog or read others\u2019 blogs\u2014although one might wonder exactly how this rambling column differs from a blog other than being in print. Once, at a time management course, the instructor advised making my PDA the center of my digital life. I tried for a day to use it for "to-do" lists and so on, but I couldn\u2019t get used to it. Instead, I would write phone messages on any paper I could find, but not surprisingly, I lost a lot of them. So now I restrict myself to one notebook at a time. The only problem with that is that I consider it too important to waste on to-do lists and phone numbers, so I still write those on scraps and promptly lose them.The Roots of My Informational ProblemsAt best I consider myself only fair at managing my personal information and knowledge environment. Where do I go astray? I think about that a lot, and I have a few hypotheses.First, I\u2019ve got too many devices. Keeping them in sync would simply take too much time. Unfortunately, this problem is only going to get worse\u2014for me and for the world at large. I was at a conference recently where all these technologists kept telling me that intelligent machines already outnumber humans 10-to-1, and they are growing at a much faster rate than we will. Of course, the technologists are saying that these devices will all be seamlessly linked, but I know better.My second problem is that I don\u2019t seem to get much help from my organizations. There is some assistance available for the use of each particular tool (except for PDAs, home computers and networks), but the support is fragmented. I don\u2019t really blame them because no organization seems to do this well, and I\u2019m not sure anyone really knows the key to personal information effectiveness. I do believe that a substantial amount of business advantage in the future will come from making workers more effective and productive in the use of all this stuff, so more resources ought to be injected into assisting us poor sods.I\u2019ve already suggested that technology doesn\u2019t work well enough. Too many things break; too much software has bugs; too many features don\u2019t function. Somebody once said that technology is "anything that doesn\u2019t work very well yet," and by that definition we\u2019re employing lots of technology. After blaming everyone else, let me also blame myself. I, like most people, underinvest in my own information environment. For some reason I have a neurotic fear of spending too much time on personal organization. I\u2019d much rather write an article or book chapter or even an e-mail than write down an address or an appointment. On an airplane, I\u2019d read 10 books or newspapers before cleaning up my to-do list. At least I know my preferences\u2014and I\u2019m willing to live with the negative repercussions.So there you have it\u2014a sad tale of a knowledge worker\u2019s informational peccadilloes. To all you vendors out there, I\u2019d pay a lot of money to anybody who could change my life without too much personal sacrifice. And to all you employers of people like me, throw us a lifeline\u2014as soon as you can figure out what it is!