Stop Information Overload Now! 3 Proven Steps to Staying Current, Connected and Sane

Simple Life Reboot - Mr. Darcy as SAM

Mr. Darcy as SAM

It washes over us like a tsunami – an unmanageable wall of information. The greater our desire to be current, competitive and connected, the more likely we are to be paddling ourselves to exhaustion.  We prefer to drown than miss out on something important…

We need a lifeguard!

Fortunately,  we have “SAM”.  SAM not only rescues us from information overload, SAM would have us dominating the giant waves of print, audio, video and social media to come. SAM is none other than Sort, Archive, and Manage, and this  is how SAM saves the day:

STEP 1 – SORT INFORMATION INTO 3 TYPES UPON RECEIPT

1. Junk Information – Block. Use filters, junk mail tools, and unsubscribe features liberally. Turn off unneeded notifications and alarms. Don’t waste time reviewing and managing junk. Dump it.  Decline unknown friend and network requests and place unwanted advertisements, emails, clips, etc. in trash/recycling upon receipt.

If you’re not comfortable hitting delete, try mute features to reduce the stream of  incoming information. An example for Twitter would be Tweetbot;  a tool that permits you to mute selected accounts for a period of time.

Think of “blocking” as a protective assistant serving as a gatekeeper so that the V.I.P (you) can focus on important matters.

2. Potentially Valuable Information – Filter and Set Aside.  Front end filters limiting streams to quality sources are critical.  Nonetheless, the value of  information, even from authorities,  may be questionable. Potentially valuable information should be gathered and set aside until it becomes pertinent as described below in Step 2.

3. Important Information – Take or Schedule Action. Any information important for family commitments and work obligations should be acted upon or entered as an action item on the appropriate calendar. For example, a flyer on an event at your child’s school should be read and the details and deadlines entered on the family calendar. A pdf of the flyer could also be saved and linked to the calendar entry.

STEP 2 – ARCHIVE RETAINED INFORMATION

Regardless of initial format, digital management is my preferred approach for the safekeeping of retained information.  Text is processed to permit character recognition so that it can be easily retrieved at a later date.

Though there are many excellent archiving processes, mine is as follows:

  • Capture.  Paper documents are batched, scanned and saved into Evernote once per week using a desktop ScanSnap. Incoming digital media is saved directly into the archive (Evernote) on the day received.
  • Title.  Each item is given a descriptive title.  Potentially valuable information is given a “to be deleted on x date”  tag, often 2-3 years into the future. Valuable information is kept permanently.
  • Tag.  Each item is given a topical tag such as “de-cluttering “, “taxes”, “health”, “Evernote”, etc.  I prefer to tag by topic, rather than by source, as a variety of authorities on a given topic is most helpful at the time of processing.

STEP 3 – MANAGE CONSUMPTION

  • Just in Time. The best approach I have found to consuming information is the Just in Time method developed by Gregor Novak and his colleagues.  Rather than mindlessly reviewing information as it comes in,  I defer consumption until shortly before  I can put it to use.  This permits me to reduce the number of times I consider a piece of information. More importantly, it permits me to extract more value from it as I consume it in context.
  • Focus. For me, multitasking and scanning incoming  information not pertinent to the task at hand reduce my ability to assimilate in-depth information.  As referenced above,  I recommend employing tools to reduce interruptions and distractions for periods of focused work.
  • Avoid Digital Clutter. Digital clutter tends to bury important information and distract us from focused use.  I recommend regular review and deletion of unneeded information.  At a minimum,  annual review and deletion using the “to be deleted on x date”  tag described above will help identify stale information to be culled.
  • Consider Learning More.  There are superb resources available that address managing information in greater detail.  Brooks Duncan provides a wealth of information on going paperless at documentsnap.com.  For archiving and curating, read Joel Zaslofsky’s Experience Curating.   Learn more about Evernote with Daniel Gold’s Evernote; the Unofficial Guide… or Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials.   Also, please see our earlier post, A Simple Step You Must Take Now to Reduce Information Overload that addresses the value of identifying authorities in your areas of interest.

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Information overload is a challenge for most of us.  We would love to hear about  the methods and tools you have found to be helpful in the comments below.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

Restore Margin to Care for Others (and Yourself)

Simple Life Reboot MarginTo what extent are we willing to go into debt, make unfair demands on family and co-workers,  or compromise healthy habits,  in order to achieve objectives?

Is our standard of living too reliant upon our willingness to push ourselves to the limit?

Long Term Impact

We may view our pedal-to-the-metal approach as proof of a strong work ethic and ambition, but are we deceiving ourselves as to either the sustainability or desirability of this approach?   We may also be dodging some hard questions  –  such as:

“After meeting our daily quota, do we have anything left to share with others?”

Wise Warnings

Throughout history, faith traditions have urged restraint in the use of resources, cautioning against the utilization of all that is available.

From a risk management perspective, keeping a buffer between resources used and available resources makes perfect sense,  but margin has infinitely greater value as a necessary resource for the care of others.

This value is made clear in the Vayikra, aka Leviticus 19:9-10, which instructs landowners to leave an unharvested margin around their fields. Further,  the harvested areas are not to be stripped bare.  This timeless practice preserves a resource to be shared with those in need.

Margin Needed Today

Restoration of margin is needed more than ever today.  In our overloaded and hectic world, it is only in the margin that we can feel safe to consider the needs of others.  It is in this space that we may be generous with our time, talents and treasures.  For instance, it is only when we have some degree of white space and flex in our schedule that we can welcome a spontaneous and unhurried conversation with a child.  It is when we have a reserve of physical strength that we can help a friend move furniture at the end of a long work day.  And, it is when we have limited our expenditures that we can consider giving generously without reservation.

By reminding ourselves of the reason for margin, we are better able to commit to its maintenance.  The beautiful thing is that by restoring margin,  we are restored and are better able to help restore and love others.

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If you would like to read more on margin, please see ‘The Secret to Growing Margin“,  “5 Step Plan for Protecting New Margin“; and “Margin in Not Just for You“.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

The Ctrl-Alt-Delete Moment

IMG_0335Imagine leaving behind the home of your dreams to begin living the life of your dreams.

Sheryl and I made that decision in August 2013.  Our beautiful home, the home in which our kids had grown to adulthood, was  no longer serving our needs in the most positive way.  In fact, it was beginning to do the opposite.  With all but one of the kids gone, our home was sitting half-empty.

IMG_0288This treasure of a home was becoming the very obstacle to achieving the life we were called to; a life well-stocked with adventures, of visiting our kids in their new home towns, and a life invested in helping others achieve their dreams while we continued to pursue our own.

Our decision to “right-size” was made infinitely easier when our next-door neighbor, who happened to be Sheryl’s mom, shared that moving in with her and purchasing her smaller home fit well with her dreams as well. She was seeking a home bustling again with family and the opportunity for travel and giving.  We all get along extremely well,  and it was not only a “win-win”, but a “joy-joy” situation.  She welcomed us with open arms and gave us the final encouragement to make needed changes.

IMG_0309A weekend moving sale on the cusp of combining two households into one, in which we would occupy a fraction of the space we had previously, was the Ctrl-Alt-Delete moment of our new lives.  Only items that were regularly used or cherished would be kept.  Everything else would be sold, donated or discarded, which by the end of the weekend, comprised about eighty percent of everything we owned.

At the time of writing this post, our house is on the market.   We cannot wait to see where our adventure will take us next,  and we will keep you updated in “Our Journey“.

Here are a few snapshots of the space we left, as well as the moving sale that was our Ctrl-Alt-Delete moment.

What you don’t see in the pictures is our supportive and loving mother-in-law standing just outside the frame cheering us on.

Thanks Mom!

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

 

What Does Your Chair Say About You?

IMG_1255This is my chair. When I reflect upon why I bought it,  I realize how much our  intentional living journey has changed me. You see when  I purchased it,  I thought I needed to fill a space.  While I didn’t really “need” another chair, I thought our  family room required something new … plus,  it was affordable.

Now, two years later,  I regret buying the chair.  It is big, lumpy, uncomfortable and less than attractive.  It doesn’t fit with my lifestyle, space or body.  But, have I gotten rid of it?  Well,  let’s just say I’m thinking it through.

Our Place in the World

As I pondered the matter,  I realized that a chair can reflect our relationship with the world.  Babies use highchairs and car seats. Kings sit on thrones.  Dental patients sit in dental chairs.  Did this chair reflect how I wanted to relate to the world after coming home from work?  Hmmmm.

Assumptions and Response

My concerns were compounded when I stumbled upon Sebastian Deterding’s TED talk on “What Your Designs Say About You“.  Mr. Deterding made the case that design reflects assumptions.  For instance, the design of  a traditional school chair assumes that a student learns by sitting and receiving instruction from a lecturer.  The design of the chair prompts a response.  The student will stay seated, face forward, and  will, most likely, only take notes with his or her right hand.

Did I assume that my free time was best spent  ensconced in front of the t.v.?   Was the chair moving me further in that direction?  Double hmmmm.

Reflection of “Good Life”

It got worse.  Mr. Deterding then described how our choices reflects our definition of the “good life”.  Did I really believe the “good life” was comprised of acquiring possessions which were big enough to fill empty space but cheap enough to be replaced on a whim?   Was I unwilling to put effort into items of true beauty, value and healthy functionality?  Enough!

I’m getting rid of the chair!

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com