4 Ways to Deal With Online Information Overload

Too many blogs too little time.

Limitless friending, social networks and forum.

40 newsletters.

These were a few of my alternate titles for this post.  Information overload seems to be the name of the game for so many of my clients and readers and I wanted to write a post for everyone, but especially for parents to teach their kids how to handle the website burn-out.

Let me guess:
Its summer so you decided to check out some of the new websites that you have on a coffee-stained, water-logged, dust covered post-it you put on your computer 6 months ago.  Whew, the house is calm, work is slow, this is perfect!

“Oh cool, a site that helps you map out the most efficient map for your grocery route! I so could use that extra ten minutes!”

“Oh awesome a newsletter for tips on my vegetable garden—I really want to grow my own salad!”

“A forum on online parental safety, an essential to deal with my 15 year-old.”
After a few hours you have combed through the sites on your post-it, made a list of 6 new ones (referred by one of the parents in the online forum), signed up for 12 new newsletters and 15 new bookmarks.

Now when will you be able to read all of them?

I know, I know, you are thinking—“Vanessa, you are part of the problem, You uber blogger, with two newsletters and two posts per day!” Because I am part of the problem, constantly listing new sites, ideas, articles and forums, I want to give you some tips to help you manage.

I am also asked on a daily basis by many of my mom clients: “How do you have time for all of these websites and newsletters, RSS and subscription services? And then you keep finding new ones!?” The answer is, I don’t, but I do have some great systems in place for when I do have time.

1) The Wave of the Non-Essential

Think about a time when you were away from your computer for a few weeks, or like, I don’t know, ten years ago before it existed.  Did the world crash? Were you a less capable human being.  It is easy to get caught in the ‘wave of the non-essential’ and try to keep up with every newsletter ever.  Understand that if you cannot read my website for a day, the world will be ok (and I will not get too mad).

2) Pick the Essential

Go through all of your sources and info and pick out the essential stuff.  Make a list of the things you really do need to stay current on whether it is for work or family or play.

3) Sort Well

I get all of my information 2 ways, through my RSS and through email newsletters.  Most email will allow you to automatically send certain emails into folders.  I have it set-up for all of my newsletters to automatically go into my “Parenting Newsletters,” “Fun Newsletters,” “Hobby Newsletters” and then delete after one month.  SO, when I have time, I skim through a few, if not, oh well, they delete.  I also have all of my RSS subscriptions organized by folders.  “Essential” “Parenting Blogs” “News Sources” “Los Angeles Info” etc.

4) Cool is Not Guilt

I used to find really awesome websites and think, “I have to use this, this is so cool, I have to remember this” and would bookmark it, put it on my toolbar, make a post-it.” Then cool became a chore.  All of a sudden I was having guilt attacks that I was not utilizing cool websites enough.  Remember to keep your fun websites fun, do not make them a ‘to do’ item (unless of course it is to read my site). Just kidding!

5) Be Wary of Duplicates

Sometimes you will get a cool new site or newsletter or information about something and you will realize that you:

a.    Really already knew that (So you are an avid golfer, do you really need to read a basic golf blog—you will know more than they do!)

b.     You have seen it before packaged a different way (all of these new social bookmarking sites—been there, done that.)

c.    Think it is great, but could you really use it? (If you do not ride a bike, do you really need a newsletter with all of the best nature bike paths in your area?)

d.    Might take more time than it saves (mapping out a grocery map takes ten minutes—the ten minutes you save walking efficiently).

6) Time-Suck Alert

When you make time to go through these sites or newsletters, time yourself so you do not get upset with yourself that you spent longer than you meant.  This just makes you resent the site, the information and the internet in general.

Now, go teach this to someone! Tell your kids about info overload and ask how they deal with it.  Ask your friends for their tips.  I find the more you teach others about dealing with information overload the easier it is to do yourself.

5 thoughts on “4 Ways to Deal With Online Information Overload”

  1. one thing I do is have a giant white board on my wall on which I drew 2 lights bulbs at the top.

    This is my really, really good idea board. Whenever I think something might be cool to do at some future point, it goes on the board.

    From time to time, I look at it and see whether any of that warrants going from “should do” to “will do” status.

    Other things get erased as they become OBE – or “overcome by events”

    Mike

  2. I know exactly about this information overload feelings.. I always felt that when I was browsing with stumbleupon bar, I found lots of great news and site, and I always kept them for further reading, but I end up never read all of the things i’ve saved xD

    Anyway your tips are great.. The third point about sorting RSS, I recently do that, i found this new website Nextfeeds.com is quite helping ^^

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