Sometimes, technology can seem more of a burden than a benefit. Here are some tips for organizing and controlling information overload:
- E-mail. Whenever you get an e-mail, determine if you can delete it, delegate it to someone else, defer it, or respond immediately or take needed action right now to solve the issue. If you don’t need to take action, archive the e-mail. Don’t try to sort, categorize, or tag your archive. Just move it into a single folder. If you ever do need to access it, you can search for words or phrases. Read Inbox Zero, a series of articles from 43 Folders about the skills, tools, and attitude needed to empty your e-mail inbox and keep it that way. (You can also view Merlin Mann’s presentation about Inbox Zero.)
- To-do List. Maintain a to-do list and reference it often. Put everything on the list or better yet, schedule it in your calendar so you will have the time to get it done.
- Feeds. Use feed readers, like Google Reader or FriendFeed. Just read the titles, and pull out what is important to you. Separate your feeds into “must-read,” “maybe,” and “everything else” folders with tags. Hit the most important folder first. Consider using Feed Rinse to automatically filter out syndicated content that you aren’t interested in. It’s like a spam filter for your RSS subscriptions.
- Minimize incoming information. Be selective in what you consume. Your time is valuable, so only subscribe to the best of the best. Don’t get on too many social networks. It can drain your time checking them all. Limit yourself to 1-3 major networks. Keep the “noise” out of your life as much as possible.
- Prioritize. Where you spend your time says a lot about who you are. Click fast and read only what’s new and ignore rehashing what’s been covered somewhere else. Manage your actions to reflect what you say is most important to you. Stay focused. At the beginning of the day, write down the 1-2 things you really want to accomplish that day.
- Pace yourself. Take on information in approachable chunks. Check e-mail and feeds on a regular schedule so it doesn’t pile up. But don’t check them too often.
- Minimize distractions. Don’t be too connected. If you’re checking your Blackberry every minute, then you’re too distracted. Sometimes, you need to turn off your e-mail application and get work done.