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5 Ways to Manage Information Overload

With 2007 winding down, I’ve spent a lot of time getting organized for the new year: cleaning out my desk, reading through my old notebooks for lost ideas, and following up on checks from earlier in the year. Information overload is a reoccurring issue for me, and if I want to stick to my resolution of looking at the big picture, I’m going to have to make some adjustments. I think this will improve both my personal and professional lives, so here are some of the smaller steps I plan to take:

  1. Use tags to organize my email. Those of you using Outlook can substitute folder for tag. I love that Gmail allows me to apply multiple tags, so I could cross reference the name of the publication with other identifiers like “travel” or “sources.” Whenever I get an email from a potential source, it gets tagged with the name of the publication so all of my sources are grouped together for easy reference.
  2. Unsubscribe to newsletters or magazines that I don’t read. I’m writer and a voracious reader of many, many things. I figure, you never know where the next big idea might come from, so I try to read everything. But some of the e-newsletters I’ve signed up for are blatant ads, and I tend to just delete them. And subscribing to so many print mags is a big waste of paper. My new mantra? Less is more.
  3. Weed out my idea files more regularly. I have multiple notebooks running at once and they also house my grocery lists and random notes to self. I know I’ve forgotten a ton of article ideas due to disorganization, so next year I hope to go through my old notebooks every month or so. Better yet, I should start different sections for “writing ideas,” “errands,” etc.
  4. Manage my web surfing. I spend a lot of time checking blogs that aren’t updated. And I often get sucked in late at night and skip my bedtime because I’m so engrossed. Thanks to Google reader, I won’t have to check blogs that aren’t updated and I’ll have all my RSS feeds organized by topic. My strategy for sticking to a bedtime is to set aside an hour or two each week for commenting (that may explain why some of my comments will be belated, but I think it will help me be more productive). Another issue for me is reading an article, then trying to find it later and not remembering the right search phrase. Hopefully using appropriate tags in delicious will solve this problem.
  5. Accept that I can’t do it all. I haven’t blogged in almost a week, which is rare for me and felt almost naughty. But you know what? I still got decent traffic and no one left comments about my slacking off. I’m not traveling for the holidays this year, but it felt good to give myself a little break. Fewer and better written posts are probably more useful to readers than more hastily written ones. Same goes for reading blogs. I don’t have to comment the same day a post goes live, because people are just glad to get feedback.

How do you manage information overload? Let me know!

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5 Ways to Manage Information Overload + writing tips