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Ten Ways to Overcome Information Overload

How do we narrow down thousands of journals, magazines, newsletters, emails and blog posts at our disposal?

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We are confronted by staggering amounts of new information every day; some of it valid, some of it contrived. Career professionals in particular can be easily overwhelmed by the wealth of information related to competitor data, new product and service launches, market changes, and industry trends and wind up with information anxiety.

Although we have access to a variety of information and communication tools, how do we narrow down tens of thousands of journals, magazines, newsletters, and blog posts at our disposal and manage information coming in? How do we flourish amidst thousands of printed pages, not to mention millions of pages on the web, and hundreds of emails, phone calls and text messages?

More Information, More Confusion

While we enjoy a growing capability to extract relevant information that supports our careers and our lives, most of what we encounter is of marginal value, at best, and often stands in the way of our goals and objectives.  We don’t have hours on end to contend with everything that competes for our attention; most days, it feels as if we don’t have sufficient time at all.

Fortunately, we can employ 10 strategies in a manner that will be productive and even enjoyable and fight that information overload:

  • Contemplate in advance the kind of information you seek.
  • Identify the vital information carriers.
  • Streamline your intake capability.
  • Beware of information crutches.
  • Establish a distribution system.
  • Be thoughtful when sending information.
  • Design responses.
  • Do away with paper.
  • Constantly review and update.
  • Acknowledge the benefits of remaining organized.

Contemplate in Advance the Kind of Information You Seek 

Have a reasonable idea of the type of information you want and need to gather. Such information encompasses news about your industry or profession; notable product and service developments; significant regulations and new legislation; client, customer, or consumer-related information; special applications; intelligence on competitors; and emerging trends and prospects.

Identify the Vital Information Carriers 

Identify the small number of key information sources, including publications, websites, blogs, and hard news sources, that cover what’s occurring in the field. You’ll really only need three to four sources; you’d be surprised at the amount of coverage overlap you’ll see.

Streamline Your Intake Capacity 

Once you recognize the kind of information you require and a handful of the best sources, you need to establish a methodical way of receiving, synthesizing, and applying such information that will benefit you, your team, and your organization.

Staying attuned to your goals and objectives and focusing on the kind of information that supports your efforts gives you the best chance to accomplish what you want. You might consider reducing social networking, depending on your job. Your quest is to maintain a constant inflow of relevant information in as simple a manner as possible. Yes, on occasion you can give attention to peripheral issues. In general, however, focus on the information that will make a difference in your effectiveness.

Beware of Information Crutches 

Many people have a predisposition to collect and retain information that confirms what they already believe or know to be true. They don’t need to save such information; the practice is more like a reflex action. With the vast amounts of information on the Internet today and the power of search engines, it’s not necessary to hang on to much.

More vital is the ability to find what you need in a hurry, which often requires only a few keystrokes. Retaining piles and files of hard copy information is of diminishing value and can impede your effectiveness. Moreover, files and information that you retain for more than 18 months often can be deleted with no detrimental effects.

Establish a Distribution System 

As you rise in your career, don’t spend inordinate amounts of time gathering information. Much of what you seek can be identified, collected, and disseminated to you by junior staff. You can use them as information scouts and as a clipping service of sorts to pre-read for you.

Once freed from the constant task of identifying and assembling information, you’re better able to think conceptually in ways that will help to propel your team, division, or department forward. This is especially true when introducing a new product, service, or delivery system.

Be Thoughtful When Sending Information

Sometimes the staggering amounts of information is due to our lack of organizing guidelines. Such guidelines could otherwise spare us from unnecessary, excessive exposure to information that does not support our current challenges.

Learn to be more discriminating when exchanging information. Eliminate acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon that can lead to misunderstandings, and limit the length of your correspondence with others by including only what is necessary to know. Overwhelming our recipients with information is no more welcome to them than when they overwhelm us. We also must encourage one another to stop CCing and BCCing when it is not necessary, and avoid submitting “FYI” kinds of messages.

Design Responses

Throughout the workweek, you’ll receive many different types of requests. Many are routine, so you can automate your responses by using your email’s signature function. Most email software programs today support at least 20 different signatures. You can create and save signatures by category that enable you to respond promptly and effectively to customers and clients. The signatures that you’ve developed can also be personalized to address the particulars of a specific inquiry.

What kinds of signatures might you create in advance? Rosters, standard letters, product and service descriptions, price lists, team or organizational descriptions, credentials, etc. The more signatures you establish, the quicker and more productively you can answer questions from inquirers.

Do Away With Paper (When Practical) 

A variety of hard copy files and documents will need to be retained. Nevertheless, you can undertake a campaign to reduce the volume of paper you’re retaining, whether it’s in filing cabinets, desk drawers, or storage bins.

Evaluating each document you receive and consider whether it merits saving. Will a scanned version of said document suffice? If so, scan it and recycle the hard copy. Yes, scanning requires extra time and effort, but in the long run the payoff is more than worth it. When you effectively label each of the documents you’ve scanned, you enhance your ability to quickly locate them on your hard drive or online. Finding such e-documents is generally easier than finding the hard copy.

Constantly Review and Update 

Periodically review your documents. Is the information still relevant? Does it need to be combined with something else? Should it be reclassified? Your goal is to keep your holdings to a minimum.

Tackle only a handful of file folders at a time, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Ask yourself, “What can be deleted? What should be merged? What can be extracted so that the few gems of wisdom crucial to my success can be applied as needed?” Think of this task with a project management hat on and take it step-by-step.

Acknowledge the Benefits of Remaining Organized 

Staying organized might make you anxious. Organizing is certainly not a glamorous task. Yet, in a world that overwhelms us with the volume of information and communication, becoming the master of your files, and maintaining them so they serve you, is more important than ever before. Information overload occurs when we let things pile up. The people who become adept at recognizing, gathering, retrieving, and applying the right information at the right time are valuable to their organizations and their teams.

The future belongs to ultra-productive people who understand the importance of information and communication management. Regardless of the obstacles they face, these adept information managers are capable of pointing their team or organization in the appropriate direction. Why? They have a well-developed ability to identify, assemble, and impart knowledge that they extract from information.

Ultimately they can draw upon their knowledge to lead with wisdom.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

America Needs a Reboot

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There is a sign outside of Needville Feed that reads: “Has anyone tried unplugging the United States and plugging it back in?” Let the painful laughter ensue! It’s confession time. How many times have you been unable to figure things out on your computer and just decided to start over by rebooting in hopes of a new beginning. Sure, no one wants to lose the current good work, so you save what you can and hope for the best.

But America does need a reboot? Something is not right with America today. Some are working to get the 34 states needed to convene a National Constitutional Convention. Others are clamoring for term limits for all politicians. Unfortunately, every radical answer unleashes radical fears that such plans could create more problems than viable solutions. We seem stuck in stupid!

They want clean energy with wind and solar while they work to shut down natural gas and nuclear energy, two clean energy sources. Due to our clean energy efforts, our coal and oil resources are cleanest in the world. But they want to buy oil from questionable countries while limiting production here. Does it make sense to move from energy independence to energy dependence before we have proven clean energy alternatives that can supply the energy we need? Of course not! We’re stuck on stupid. Time to reboot expanded energy options to reclaim energy independence!

How can you have true freedom of speech and not occasionally offend someone along the way? The answer to hateful or offensive speech, is more speech and thicker skin. People throw around the term “snowflakes” for people who want freedom for themselves but can’t handle that freedom for those who would attack their own views. Freedom is messy. Freedom is loud. Let people say what they want and experience the consequences for their comments. If you offend enough people, don’t expect to win many votes or popularity polls! It’s time to reboot freedom of speech for all!

I always thought that government was established to protect their citizens from enemies and from criminals. Why are people buying guns? Citizens want weapons to protect themselves. They are seeing far too many criminals let go without being prosecuted or punished. Government wants to take guns away from citizens, and everyone knows that criminals will keep theirs! In America today, crime seems to pay pretty well for the growing number of flash mobs, carjackers, and rioters taking what they want! Few big city DAs are doing their jobs. If you riot in the streets, rob small businesses, and attack bystanders, you should go to jail and serve time! We’re stuck on stupid! It’s time to unplug and reboot America’s law and order program!

Immigration has made America a better country, a melting pot of people who value freedom and the opportunity to earn their own dream. But people playing by the rules to immigrate to America keep waiting and never get the welcome illegal aliens receive by just crashing our Southern borders. By not having a secure border, we are advertising for more illegals to come. The Biden administration will provide transportation, let you have benefits, and work to get you housing and an eventual path to citizenship. Why immigrate legally, when doing so illegally works so well? Time to reboot. Time to finish the wall and secure our Southern border!

Martin Luther King, Jr. paid the price and rallied the country around a dream that one’s character would mean more than the color of a one’s skin. And yet today, calls for racism are encouraged. To many, you’re celebrated for saying that all whites are racist. Many blacks call for special reparations for the racism of a distant past. There is one sure result of such calls for special racial treatment-renewed racism! Reverend King would have surely affirmed that “All God’s children matter!” Under democratic leadership, America is backsliding into more racial animus. It’s time for a reboot. It’s time to reaffirm that “All men are created equal” is a value and a promise worth fighting for.

Personal responsibility for one’s choices is a critical American value. If you commit a crime, you do the time. You borrow money for something you want, you pay your debt. President Biden executive order to “forgive” student debt is not “free.” That debt isn’t “canceled;” it’s transferred to every tax-paying American. Many of those taxpayers have already worked and sacrificed to pay off their own student debt. This is not only stupid; it is an assault on basic fairness and a blatant attempt to buy votes. Reboot required! Reinstall personal responsibility programming!

In a recent interview on Jesse Watters’ Fox News show, Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution confronted the extreme actions of the left in transforming America. They are attacking and overthrowing America’s time-tested values.

To Hanson, the left is governing exactly the way they accuse the right of acting: “I mean, nobody on the right said let’s junk the 233-year-old Electoral College; [the] 180-year-old filibuster; the 150-year-old, nine-person Supreme Court. Nobody [on the right] said let’s bring in two more states and end the idea for 60 years of a 50-state union.”

It’s only left that has no problem stalling protection for right-leaning Supreme Court Justices facing demonstrations outside their homes. It’s the left that wants to radically federalize the voting laws to ensure that 70 percent of the votes would not be cast on Election Day. It’s the left that has radically weaponized the IRS with excessive increases in personnel and funding. The left calls January 6th an insurrection, but as Hanson notes: “Remember in 2021 when they had barbed wire and 30,000 troops in Washington, D.C. in the greatest weaponization since the Civil War?” Do you remember?

When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in government entitlement programs that take from your neighbor to give you the things you ought to be forced to earn for yourself. It’s time to unplug this radical administration before it is too late. In November, it’s time to reboot by booting out the politicians who have played so loosely with America’s time-tested recipe for freedom and opportunity. It’s time to send the left home!

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Business

Redirect Yourself to Be More Productive

At any moment you have the opportunity to make a choice

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When you feel as if you’re not being as productive as you could be, or that you have strayed from your desired path, ask yourself: “What is the most effective use of my time?”

Suppose you face a variety of unrelated tasks, and what day does that not happen? Or, you face a variety of related tasks on the same project. Asking yourself what is the most effective use of my time invariably helps direct you to that task, which at present, merits your attention.

What Is the Most Effective Use of My Time

At any given moment you have the opportunity to make a choice, even if a task or project has been going well, you have the opportunity to make the choice as to how to use your time starting at that moment.

Generally, speaking, when the self-directed question arises, it’s an indication that you’re facing some sort of quandary, and probably need to redirect your efforts. So ask yourself the question anytime you feel the need.

Will It Be Any Easier Later?

When faced with a situation I would prefer to put off, I ask myself another type of question: “Will it be any easier later?” If the task will be easier later, then I have rational justification for not proceeding on that particular task.

For example, if I have to organize all the receipts related to a certain project that will be in progress for another week, I can readily put off this task for another week. Then, with all the receipts collected, I can organize them accordingly, knowing I can do the job until its ultimate completion.

If the task won’t be any easier later, then it largely makes sense to proceed now, particularly if it might be more difficult later. Preparing for a speech, an interview, or a test or exam several days beforehand is a wiser approach to studying rather than cramming the night before.

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