Take Back Your Time and Beat Information Overload

line_figure_headache_overwhelmed_overloadedI’ve been out working with clients “in real life” the past few days and did not spend much time checking emails. Naturally, my inbox imploded and when I finally looked at it all, I had an epiphany. Something's gotta give!

"One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There's always more than you can cope with.” – Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980)

Out of hundreds and hundreds of emails overflowing my inbox, there were only two I really needed to see and take action on…TWO! 

I set aside half a day to purge the inbox and to unsubscribe from a bunch of newsletters that I have not even scanned, let alone read in many months. I moved some to my RSS reader which I always scan at least once a week. (generally on Saturday or Sunday morning, though I gave those RSS files a good clean-up too)

I also went through my “saved” email and hard drive documents and deleted anything I could easily find again online and have not used or searched for all year. There is so much information available in a steady stream on the Internet and new inspiration pops up everyday. I have literally forgotten what I have saved and in some cases, saved it twice!  

“We have for the first time an economy based on a key resource Information that is not only renewable, but self-generating. Running out of it is not a problem, but drowning in it is.”  – John Naisbitt, Author, Megatrends (1982)

I am not disorganized and mostly live by the motto “do it now.” But in looking at these computer files, I discovered I am tucking away far too many articles and ideas for a day when I will “get around to” reading or implementing them. That day never arrives! 

Sure, there is important information we all need to keep…registration codes, health records, user names, receipts, logins, etc.  I save these types of documents in a file on my computer hard drive or an external drive and print them out for a binder on my office shelf.  But I still have let way too much virtual “stuff” pile up.  

“It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” -Clay Shirky

Of course, I have friends who go to the opposite extreme, deleting everything.  Too often, they wind up scrambling to retrieve important information they tossed. That’s as bad as saving everything and probably more stressful.

Year-end is a perfect time to clear the clutter and resolve to do better.  Done right you will free your time and your mind in the coming year. Work out an action-save-delete system and make a fresh start in 2014.

How do you manage information and keep overload at bay?  Please leave a comment and share your tips.