Four Tips for Managing Information Overload

There’s no shortage of media competing for our attention – print newspapers, social networking accounts, blogs, and text messages just to name a few. While all these resources are good, it can definitely be overwhelming. So how can you manage information overload? Here are four of my favorite tips.

Use RSS feeds

I follow a number of different blogs and updates from different web sites. I used to have email subscriptions to these various resources. They all provide great content, but seeing that many emails in my inbox each morning nearly brought tears to my eyes because it was so overwhelming.

I un-subscribed to the majority of email updates and set up an RSS feed instead using Netvibes. This way I can look at one screen to see all the headlines. From here, I can decide which ones I want to dig deeper into on a particular day. This is even easier with tabs set up so I can check local blogs (such as LTP), nonprofit specific news, social media updates, etc.

Google alerts

Whether you monitor your brand or simply your name as a freelancer, using Google alerts will make life much simply than constantly surfing the internet for new mentions. Simply visit the Google alerts page and enter your search criteria, email address, and frequency of updates. And that’s it. You’ll start receiving email notifications when your brand or name is mentioned.

This can also be useful for monitoring specific keywords. It can get overwhelming though – obviously there’s a lot of information available on the Internet – but it’s very easy to modify the search criteria in your Google alert if you’re not getting the right information.

Quit multi-tasking

This is one I’m guilty of doing. I have two monitors at my computer, so I’ll have one screen set up to search something up on the Internet. While it’s searching, I’m reading email on the other monitor. Apparently, waiting 5 seconds for the search to complete is just too much downtime!

We all think we’re getting more done when we multi-task, but that’s not the case. You think you’re learning more. In fact, you’re learning less. Any information learned while multi-tasking can actually take longer to retrieve later on. Multi-taskers are also prone to more errors and are generally less productive than people who focus on one task at a time

Turn off the electronics

I am a strongly believer in shutting down electronic devices by a certain time each night. This includes television, computer, mobile devices, and anything else with a screen. During the week, I have a set time where I shut things down and just relax with a book. I talked about this in my article on work and life balance

To wrap up, use RSS feeds and Google alerts to monitor your electronic news (but still shut down at a certain time each night). If you’re a multi-tasker, start doing one thing at a time this week and see if you notice a difference in your overall productivity.