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Chris Aylott

3 Ways to Reduce Information Overload
Posted by: Chris Aylott
Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I strained my shoulder over the holiday weekend, and it wasn’t even by doing anything fun. With every mouse click at a wincing premium, though, I’ve had a chance to appreciate just how much information is appearing on our computer monitors every day.

Welcome to the information age. How about something to drink?

The typical professional sees over a hundred emails and news items every day. Social media is adding to that at a furious pace, and there is likely to be 75 times as much data in the world in 2020 than there was in 2010.

Unless you’re planning to be able to think 75 times faster in 2020, it’s time to start managing that data.

Here are three ways to take control of your data and turn the firehose of information into a manageable stream:

1. Treat every computer like a mobile device

When I’m sitting at a computer, I often have ten different windows open. I tell myself that I’m keeping everything I need handy, but at least half those windows have nothing to do with what I’m currently working on. I also waste a lot of time and energy figuring out what window the information I really needed is in.

Mobile devices have smaller screen sizes and force you ┬áto look at one thing at a time. That gives you more incentive to deal with that one thing and move on. It’s time to look at your desktop like it was a mobile device, and close up everything you don’t actually need.


2. Consolidate (and prune!) your email

As a writer, I wear several different hats and do business through several email addresses. Checking email in four different locations can waste a lot of time and energy, and its amazing that I took as long as I did to put all my email accounts in the same email program. Now I check all my email at once, at regularly scheduled times.

Checking all your email at once also underscores how much of your email is made up of ‘ccs, ads, and other things you don’t really need to look at. As Steve Rosenbaum recently pointed out in Forbes, it’s empowering to unsubscribe.


3. Rely on your curators

There’s one thing to be gained from the avalanche of information transmitted by social media. If you pick your sources carefully, a lot of the things you want to know will turn up in one convenient location.

In another recent article, Steve Rosenbaum pointed out how associations can curate content for their members. You can save a lot of time and energy by relying on a few trusted sources for your news, especially if that news is consolidated into an RSS Feed or a newsreader like Pulse.


Don’t be afraid to get away from it all

The tips above will help you manage your information overload, but there’s one other useful characteristic that computers and mobile devices share: they can be turned off. Taking a walk and leaving your phone at home is a great way to relax and refresh yourself, and the Internet will still be here when you come back.

How do you manage your digital overload? Reply in our discussion forums, or join our #engage365 Twitter chat on Friday, June 1 at 1 p.m. Eastern time!

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to this article

Mark Lloyd May 31, 2012

One of the best things I did lately was employ “rules” for incoming email. while it took a short to to set up, the time savings are huge. Helps to cut through the non essential emails to get to the important stuff.

Kristen June 1, 2012

Hi Chris, I really like number 1. I find myself wasting a lot of time switching tabs and windows so now I try to be conscious of how many programs and windows I have open. It wastes a lot of working memory to have to keep looking over the same screens and assess its not what you are working on at the moment. My motto as of late: Let’s Mono-task!

Email can similarly waste time, constantly scanning old emails you’ve read but left in your inbox. I’m trying to reach inbox zero myself, a work in progress. Filters & Unsubscribes are helping, but I think the trickiest part is to break with constantly checking “just in case” and only sticking to dedicated “processing” times. The company I work at AwayFind, tries to help people with that by sending alerts via SMS or push notifications for urgent email, so you can close your inbox until you are ready to actually deal with it, but you don’t worry about missing something crucial. I don’t know if the kind of email you get is that time-sensitive, but curious to know your thoughts on it since you have experience in the tech space for event professionals.


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