By Patricia Sellers
July 16, 2010

by Patricia Sellers

On Monday, I wrote about information overload. You, like I, probably can relate too well. This was the hot topic a week ago at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where I moderated a panel that included David Craig, the stat-spewing chief strategy officer of Thomson Reuters (TRI), which claims to be the largest dispenser of financial data in the world.

The best performers in business and beyond, I noted during the Aspen discussion, can block out information overload. They stay extraordinarily focused and situationally aware. In fact, I cited Derek Jeter, Sports Illustrated’s most recent Sportsperson of the Year. More than most any other great ballplayers, Jeter never gets distracted from the task at hand: winning the game. The New York Times, incidentally, cites Jeter as the most valuable Yankee since George Steinbrenner, who died this week, took over the team in 1973.

I’m talking about the perils of information overload because last night — around 10 PM after a pressure-packed day of mega-meetings about expanding Fortune’s Most Powerful Women brand — I got mugged. I blame myself. I was sitting on a stone wall outside my apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, talking on my cell phone on and on and on with a friend about our mutually too-busy days.

WHOOSH! I felt a blast through the air — the earth moving, practically — as three gangly teenagers bulleted toward me and took off with my purse, which I’d had sitting beside me. I screamed. And they screamed, too, triumphantly — blasting down west 70th street toward the Hudson River.

Lesson learned — for a while, at least. I’ll try to stay situationally aware. Follow the Jeter model.

Yes, it could have been worse. The cops, who were very kind and attentive, told me that 15 minutes later and four blocks away, the same teenage kids, they believe, mugged a 40-year-old woman. They knocked her to the sidewalk and stole her handbag.

Detective Frank Brennan called today from Manhattan’s Precinct 20 to follow up. They got the kids on video, he told me. Nice if they would nab them, right?

My advice: Watch your back, especially on your way-too-busy days. Youth unemployment in the U.S. has hit a scary 21.5% high, and kids have too much time on their hands. Even though crime stats are down in New York City, felony assaults are up this year.

“There’s been a rash of incidents lately,” Detective Brennan told me. “You know, everyone is on their phones and their Blackberries. They’re distracted. That makes them easy pickins.”

P.S.  MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski can relate. Here’s perspective on this post from Morning Joe‘s co-host: “Mika B. says, ‘Put the Blackberry down!'”

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