Tip of the Month: Avoiding the Feeling of Information Overload
Stop talking about information overload. That term is for weaklings. ... Information overload is actually the feeling that you cannot sort through the resources in the world in order to figure out what’s important. ... Information is not something you have time for or don’t have time for. Information is either helping you meet your goals or not. --Penelope Trunk
What Penelope writes reminds me of what Clay Shirky says: "It's not information overload, it's filter failure."
So how do we filter all the information coming at us - from newspapers, magazines, books, newsletters, blogs and more? Part of the answer is simply realizing that we do need to filter - and, as Clay says, we need to keep adjusting those filters, because what works today will stop working at some point in the future.
Like many people, I need to carefully monitor my reading in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed - and I do indeed make frequent tweaks to my reading plan. For me, it also helps to ask a few questions:
1. What roles do I play, and what information do I need to support each of those roles? This is my way of addressing Penelope's point about goals.
2. Will I actually do something with this information? Or is this something I want to read for the pure fun of it?
If not one or the other, why am I considering spending time reading this?
Sample Role: Citizen of my city, region, state, country, the world
Local news affects my day-to-day life, so it's crucial to me. But while I also want to be an informed citizen of the world, I don't really need to know a whole lot about the Wimbledon matches or the Twilight movies. I don't even need in-depth information about most of the more serious world news topics.
Sample Role: Traveler
I love to travel - but I don't really need much information on possible destinations until I'm ready to plan a trip. So I may bookmark an interesting story for future reading, or a good web site for future research, but I won't spend much time on travel-related stories on a day-to-day basis.
Sample Role: Friend
When my friends - real friends, not simply Facebook-type friends - update their blogs, I want to read what they have to say - every last word! And when I'm scanning through my daily news sources, I note any articles I think will interest my friends, and pass them along. (But I'm very selective here, so I won't add to someone else's feeling of overload!)
Sample Role: Organizer
Here I'm searching for information that will be useful to my clients, or information that will make an interesting blog post or newsletter item. I skip the basic how-to articles - and those that deal with aspects of organizing that aren't my primary focus.
Beyond the Roles: I'll also read some things that don't fit any role; they're just things that make me smile, like Jon Carroll's columns.
Once I know what information is important to me, I can carefully select a range of sources to provide that information - and let the rest go.
Organizing Poem of the Month: To-Do Haiku
Pick up dry cleaning.
Where are my black boots? At work?
Did we pay that bill?
-- Kristin van Ogtrop, Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom
Organizing Product of the Month