Infoluenza*, or information overload, is a problem for many of us in the age of everything online. There are some extreme cures, such as canceling my broadband connection and / or turning off the computer. But this feels almost like deciding to stop eating completely. What I really want is a "cure" that makes me healthier, not one that kills me. I consider this another aspect of personal knowledge management.
Here are some analgesics:
- Stay focused on one task at a time, especially at the computer. I find jumping around results in unfinished work hours after I've started. This is particularly troubling when reference material is peppered all over my space, and finding the references unearths even more "interesting stuff."
- Be deliberate. Stop visiting the web and other information sources on a random basis. Set up your own guidelines on when you take the time and how much time you will take. Even if it is "fun time" during a break, clarify that it's just ten minutes, not the thirty that it becomes.
- Ignore those temptations. Delete emails and ignore blog posts that tell you to go visit a website "because it's cool." If they can't be bothered to tell you why it is cool or what it might be about, it's not worth finding out for yourself.
- Use an aggregator to read all your news sources in one place. Really think about which sources you wish to consume that don't offer a feed.
- Trim your sources. From time to time, look at the resources you consume and decide whether they still provide value.
- Does the resource still fit for you? Has your outlook changed? Has theirs? Has the signal-to-noise ratio changed unfavorably?
- Dennis Kennedy has a thought on a pair of mechanisms to trim back: delete partial-text feeds (from your aggregator), and delete those podcasts that have crummy sound quality.
- Set up filters to drop incoming messages into buckets, based on the topic or source, so that they can be dealt with appropriately.
- Either unsubscribe from your FYI mailing lists, or subscribe to the digest mode.
- [There are many additional resources on email management, such as those I've referenced in the past.]
* Note: The term "infoluenza" is Luke Naismith's.