How to Manage Information Overload

April 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm Leave a comment

Hay Truck

Haytruck by Stewsnews

I have set out to turn “information overload” into “an abundance of options.” Doesn’t that just sound better?  Based on what I’m hearing and reading, we’re all feeling the pressure and the frustration, and it IS tempting to join the chorus.  But, the alternatives – censoring and regulated filtering – are neither desirable nor practical at this point.  With countless contributors who have unlimited access to the Internet, information will continue to be generated at lightening speed, and it could feel like “overload.”  But, the problem is not that we have too much information.  The problem is finding a way to manage it. That solution will be a little different for everyone.

I’m a strategist by nature and profession, so my approach to this problem looks like this:  I start out with my lists of objectives and values, and I let those be my guides.  I throw in a bit of discipline and time management and I’ve got the beginnings of a recipe for managing the information overload.  I complete it with the not-so-secret ingredients: tools.

I don’t mean to oversimplify the process because it’s really not simple at all.  In fact, it takes real effort. For me, the greatest challenge is in those elusive and constantly evolving objectives.  Fortunately, the values tend to stay pretty consistent.  The discipline is part of my character; and I’ve been developing my time management skills for decades.
Choosing the tools can be difficult because the options are extensive and you might find yourself in a chicken-or-the-egg situation with the overload of information about the tools.  But, this is where I did try to simplify the process.  I started with tools I was familiar with and then added a couple more that seemed to keep coming up in conversation.

Here’s how it all plays out for me:

Objectives:

  • To learn how businesses integrate social media into existing strategies and practices
  • To become familiar with valuable resources and thought leaders in the field

Values:

  • Continuous learning
  • Productive use of time

Time management:

  • Pre-plan a realistic weekly schedule for reading and research
  • Document every session related to the purpose, the amount of time spent, the outcome, and how new information will be applied to the progress of existing projects.

Discipline:

  • Ensure productive use of time (see values) by consciously committing to objectives before each work session
  • Make weekly schedule a strict priority (see time management)

Tools:

  • Microsoft Outlook® To-Do List, Journal and Reminders
  • Google Reader (for RSS feeds)
  • Bookmarking functions found in Google (stars), Delicious and Twitter (favorites)
  • Amazon.com wish list
  • iTunes (for subscribing to podcasts)

The process I use is pretty structured and disciplined.  But, it has been extremely effective windmill and haystacks by somebody_in turning information overload into an abundance of options.  I know this because I’m making good progress toward my objectives, and my interest and enthusiasm remain high.  What’s more, with an eye on the prize, it takes only a little conscious effort to resist the temptation to wander off my path.
While I have been practicing this strategy for a long time, writing this blog has reinforced my commitment to it.  Although everyone’s own strategy will be unique, I would recommend writing yours down and making it work. Don’t allow the perception of information overload keep you from the abundance of options that await you.

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Entry filed under: Productivity, Social Media, Strategy. Tags: , .

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