A while back Jeff Wacker wrote a blog entry introducing the concept of hrair - the maximum amount of information streams a person can handle before they become overwhelmed. This limit is not like most limits, since when a person goes past their hrair limit, not only can they not handle the new information, it prevents them from handling what they were perfectly capable of handling before.
This limitation on our attention will continue to be a significant factor in how user interfaces are designed in the future. This will be especially true with the continued information explosion, driven by the deployment of information gathering techniques like RFID, the continued use of email and voice mail and a variety of other solutions to help us understand our world. In fact, even Bill Gates has written about these concepts in his essay: The New World of Work. If you have not read it, it is worth the read.
I know that the kind of information I would like to be notified about when I am standing in line at the grocery store, giving a presentation to a client or sitting at my desk slogging through email can be very different. With the possibility of a more contextually aware model driven approach to running the enterprise, we should no longer have to tolerate the rude behavior of our computers with their "take care of me NOW!" approach. This may not be possible right now, but it is not that far away. In fact, the rule based, role based security models may require this kind of contextual awareness.
There was a good article about this subject in the New York Times Magazine called Meet the Life Hackers a week or so back. It fairly accurately describes what I have done to/for myself and how I cope with the interruption avalanche: post it notes, multiple monitors and all. Now if I could only understand what I mean when I wrote those insightful post it notes like: "Check Jeff Hack must read" 5 minutes after I write it.
I am beginning to use MS Office quite differently than I used to. Can I consistently use the task list and follow-up flags in Outlook!?!