I recently figured out how to overcome the overwhelming information streams in my life, and as a result I feel both more productive and more in tune with today’s information pathways. Here are a few steps I took to better manage my information; hopefully, they can be of some use to you as well.
1. Ask Yourself, Why Do You Need Information?
First, ask yourself this question: why do I need information? You should have in mind some objectives that you hope to accomplish and the ways information can help you achieve these objectives. Rank these objectives, as such a ranking will help you to prioritize your information.
2. Select and Prioritize Information
Based on your objectives, select and prioritize your sources of information. If you work online all day within a specific niche, what niche-related sources of information are most important to your business? What news sites are most important to keeping you informed of global events? I suggest selecting a number of primary sites and secondary sources of information.
3. Collect in one Place
Navigating from one website to another, sorting through your various email accounts, and juggling instant messaging services can be very time-consuming. Try to collect each information source in one place. Use your favorite RSS feed reader to collect news from different websites. Forward emails into one account, but filter them into specific folders that you can choose to access whenever you need to. Link all your chat accounts into one.
4. Create a Routine
Once you establish categories of information and have one easy place to access it all, then you should create a daily routine for consuming that information. I prefer to go through my personal emails and feeds in the morning over coffee. When I get to work, I allow myself to check personal email at lunch, but I don’t respond to it immediately. Instead, I monitor work email and work RSS feeds throughout the day. When I get home, I deal with my freelance correspondence after dinner. You’ll notice I don’t often respond to personal emails immediately in this system. I’ve realized that I’m perfectly okay with that. Creating these three information profiles, I guess you could call them, has significantly improved my productivity because it can keep me focused and in a certain mindset.
5. Filter the Data
Of course, I also have to filter within each of these profiles. I decide what chats, emails, and articles are most important and deal with those first. Rarely do I complete tasks in any chronological order, though that process might work for someone else. The important thing here is to apply some sort of filtering mechanism; otherwise you can drive yourself crazy trying to do everything at once.
6. Know When to Step Away
The last thing I’ve done is I’ve allowed myself to step away from information sources. I don’t check email or the internet over the weekend. When I get home from work each evening, I don’t look at the computer until after dinner, and then I’ll only stay online if there is anything pressing concerning my freelance work.
This guest post is contributed by Alvina Lopez, who writes on the topics of accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email [email protected]