Information overload is a killer. It dazzles Internet beginners then sucks the enthusiasm right out of them. If you are a beginner and you suffer from paralysis due to information overload, don’t despair. There are several remedies.
Make a routine
1. The first thing is to recognize information overload for what it is. At the core, information overload is simply an abundance of good and bad information. The problem is what you do with it. You can’t eat all the candy in the store, even if it’s free. So accept that.
2. Start setting routines for yourself. If you examine your interests and do your work in the same order each day, you start losing that feeling of loss of control that comes with information overload.
3. You should log your activities for a while to get a handle on what works best for you. That will cut down on a lot of the bad effects from information overload.
4. Make a goal-based work plan, then break it down into task lists and stick to them. But be realistic. Set small easily doable tasks. You can always make up a new list if you get the present one done.
5. Use a timer on your tasks. The will really keep you moving. You will literally squeeze information overload out of your mind during those tasks.
6. You have to eliminate distractions. More signal, less noise. This means no unnecessary distractions while working, especially the incessant bombardment of information overload. Disable email and RSS feed alerts. Turn off your instant messengers. No Twitter (a popular miniblog). Put a sticky on your mouse that says, “Do you really need to click me?” Then focus on your work.
7. Study proper learning and work sequences. What needs to be done first? Then second, third and so on? The very minimum on the Internet is to learn how to operate your browser, how to search and how to set up a blog or web page. You often need to fiddle with a new program to get comfortable with it. If you don’t, you can waste a lot of time later hunting for how to do things.
8. Put perfectionism in context. On the Internet, it is the evil assistant to information overload for sabotaging your efforts. It’s OK to publish something that’s not perfect. You shouldn’t post garbage, but you don’t need a Nobel Prize in literature, either.
Caution! Perfectionists find more information overload online than they’ll ever need to fuel their obsession and stay shut down. Don’t let that be you
9. Simplify your tasks. Make a list of results that give you the greatest return and prioritize those. Spending time on inessential details at the cost of essential ones is simply a result of information overload.
10. One good way to think about information is to divide it into action and non-action.
Action information can be used immediately to do something. Spending all your time on non-action information is a subtle form of information overload.
11. Avoid the non-action trap. If it says “click this link” or “write a paragraph” to get going, then click it or write it. Act on action information. Don’t put it off.
12. Learn how to use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. For beginners, the best place to start is a Google reader, which is free, easy to learn and easier to use. Look it up. Finding it’s a cinch. You can cut way down on the sites you visit by targeting only their new stuff and receiving it all in one place.
There’s a trap, though. An RSS reader is like wine. If you drink a little, it makes you feel good. If you drink a lot, you get drunk. So an RSS reader can simplify some of your information overload, but it can seriously aggravate the problem if you go hog wild.
13. Once your information is prioritized into the categories of really important and not so important, you can multitask the not so important stuff. You can watch TV or listen to music while writing light blog posts or emails. You can bounce back and forth between them and, say, an RSS reader or Twitter updates.
Don’t do this with your really important information and tasks, though. That will put your information overload in overdrive. You need to concentrate and use focused attention on those.
Improve your skills
14. A great way to meet information overload head on is to improve your cognitive skills and education. There are oodles of great speed reading courses and memory improvement courses available. You can also take some Internet courses and even a typing class. These won’t help you prioritize your choices, but they will help you process what you choose a lot faster.
Your strongest tools
15. You already have two of the strongest tools you will ever need to combat information overload. You just need to step back from the noise and realize what they are: good judgment and common sense. No amount of information overload has been able to stand up to those weapons, so use them often and you will soon be in control.
Now information overload doesn’t seem so daunting, does it? Go on. Get to work.