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.
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.
Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com