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Handling information overload

Page history last edited by barb d 15 years, 4 months ago

How to deal with information overload


Essential tools

  • Newsreaders -- if you're not using an RSS reader to stay on top of industry and other news that's relevant to you and your business, you're missing out.
    • These applications bring just the news you select into one convenient interface, constantly updated and easily organized.
    • On the Mac I recommend NetNewsWire, which syncs with the web-based NewsGator so if you read your feeds on multiple computers or devices you can keep your feeds synced and avoid reading duplicate items.
    • On the Windows side I recommend FeedDemon which also sync with NewsGator, or Newzcrawler which also offers web-based synchronization.
    • Notable web-based RSS readers include Google Reader, Bloglines, and Newsgator.
    • Another huge convenience is being able to read your feeds on your phone. A number of services offer mobile formats to read your news: Bloglines mobile, Google reader mobile, Newsgator mobile. iPhonify is a great iPhone-formatted version of Google Reader.
  • Google alerts
    • this service sends you automagic emails of current news based on keywords of your choosing. You can choose a frequency so that ultra-important topics come to you immediately while less time-critical alerts can be limited to one roundup per day or per week.
  • Social bookmarking tools
  • Wikis
    • I use wikis to store frequently used lists, to-do lists, research and things to remember
    • Advantages: web-based wikis are accessible from multiple computers and platforms. Desktop wikis are great for bundling together multiple lists or collections of research without having to hunt through many different text files. They're also fantastic if multiple people need to access and/or edit the same set of information.
    • Web-based wiki recommended: PBwiki offers free and paid versions if you need file storage.
    • Desktop wiki recommended: Voodoopad for Mac is awesome. It features a tabbed interface for keeping multiple, frequently-used pages open in one interface just like tabbed browsing. wikidPad for Windows offers similar functionality.



Barb's tips

  • i don't care about an empty inbox. i skim the list of unread and try to pick out the items that look most important, and get to them first. i try and trust that if i miss something important, someone will bring it up again.
  • i also don't care about reading every item in my newsreader. i set up filters for whatever are the most relevant search terms for me at the moment and try to get to those first. if i miss a few days of feeds, i don't worry about catching up -- i just start with what's fresh.
  • if there's an item that looks interesting but i don't have time to read it now, i'll open a tab in NNW or del.icio.us it for later. if i don't get to it later, the world does not end.
  • i am constantly adding new feeds, recategorizing feeds if they become less or more important, and deleting feeds that are no longer very useful.
  • for any super-critical and time-sensitive feeds, i use Zaptxt for IM and/or SMS notification.
  • don't get bogged down with a feeling of obligation to consume or look at everything. try to cultivate an attitude of opporunity rather than obligation.
  • don't be afraid to change your workflow or try new tools. try to allot some time in your schedule to periodically explore new tools, methods of organization, and to revise or assess your current systems.
  • ask your friends and colleagues what tools they use to stay organized.
  • i try to make as much of my information storage web-based as possible, for relatively easy access from any computer or location.
  • if you're not sure what the most important action item is at any given time, just trust your instincts.


Gina's tips

  • There's a really great book by Mark Hurst about handling information overload called Bit Literacy, and it's main tenet is that we need to learn how to "let the bits go."
  • When it comes to reading my 258 feed subscriptions, I let the bits go by:
    • Marking all as unread often
    • For a feed with lots of unread items (>10 or 20), just skimming the first handful of new ones. If there's nothing good, mark the rest unread - it's old anyway
  • I divide my feeds into 2 folders: 'daily' and 'sometimes.' New subscriptions from sites that look good go into daily. If more than 3 days goes by with nothing interesting in it, it gets demoted to the 'sometimes' folder. Your daily must-reads will be your trusted sources - the feeds you know you'll get posting material from.
  • I save links to read later in my bookmarks, which get sync'ed across computers using Foxmarks. I like just being able to drag and drop a link to the "possible post" folder on my bookmarks toolbar.
  • The key is to not let yourself get overwhelmed. Let the bits go, and important stuf you may have missed will bubble up again.



Going further

  • The cult of GTD: Getting Things Done
  • Personal start pages: Netvibes, Pageflakes, Google start page
  • Backpack -- web-based personal info manager with great shareability tools.
  • Virtual desktops -- have more than one "workspace" open at a time
  • Quicksilver -- desert island app for the Mac, serves as a launcher and much more
  • Web-based operating systems: YouOS, Goowy, etc.

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