Information Overload: How To Deal
As news gets faster and the amount of information we consume increases, the idea of information overload is one that is commonly banded about. With there being so many sites and blogs out there posting updates every day, trying to keep on top of it all is a common problem.
More often than not, it’s how you read that contributes to this feeling rather than what you read and with so many content curation tools and news aggregators out there, it’s very easy to end up with too many articles to read.
It’s can be difficult to stop feeling like you’re missing out on something important if you’re not checking your news feeds. This is more a state of mind than fact so here are a number of steps to help you reduce the load and give you piece of mind.
Reducing Information Intake
1. Cut Down On Content
Realistically, how much do you need to read in the one day? Do you really need to get news from a hundred different sources, especially when most of them cover the same topics every now and again? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s because you try to read too much in too short a time.
Take a step back and reduce the amount of content that you have coming in. Which ones focus solely on news? What sites provide guides and tips? Which sites do you enjoy visiting the most?
2. Limit The Number Of Streams You’re Visiting
A bigger problem that people face isn’t’ that there’s too much content to keep up with, but they are consuming content from a number of different sources. There’s no point having a Twitter list dedicated to news if 90% of it will appear in your RSS reader as it ultimately means you’re wasting time. Sort out which services you visit the most and phase out the ones you don’t so that you have everything in the one place.
3. Focus on Specific Topics
You can’t keep up with everything that’s happening so decide which ones are of greater priority for you and stick to it. If your discipline is technology, then just focus your efforts on that one topic. The more topics you try to cover, the less chance of you being able to retain what each article is about.
Keep it focused to one main topic, whether it’s within your profession or just something you’re interested in, and stick to it. This is where apps like Zite and Flipboard come into play, allowing you to subscribe to specific topics.
4. Set Specific Times For Checking
Since the majority of people will have work to do, checking up on the news every few minutes will disrupt your workflow and take you longer to complete tasks. To resolve this, choose times that you know will be relatively quiet and use those moments to check up any feeds or news sources you’re interested in. You will find that your overall experience will improve as you have less distractions while you work.
Keeping Up To Date
5. Use A RSS Reader
The most basic option, but also one of the most reliable. RSS feeds are still used by many people and is a great way for organising what content you want to read. The most popular one to go for is Google Reader, which is handy if you want complete control over the type of content you read.
What you would need to decide first is what blogs or sites you should subscribe to first before you start (If you’re looking for tech and social media related sites and blogs, here is good place to start). Just remember not to take on too much; a general rule would be to start off with 25 different sources max and gradually build it up as you get use to it. How many sites you subscribe to really depends on a number of factors such as how often they update, whether you read cover to cover or just glance over the headings.
6. Use a News Aggregation Service
If you want something a little smarter and don’t like the idea of manually adding and searching for new sites to follow, there are a number of great news apps and programs that you can download for your smartphone or tablet. While the majority are mobile based, there are a number of them available for desktop too so you can always stay connected.
One great example is Prismatic, which has both a desktop and iPhone version. It has a clean interface and a nice touch is that each article is accompanied by the latest tweets relating to it so you can see what people are saying about it. Other honourable mentions are Flipboard, Zite, Pulse, and Google Currents.
If you’re in any way a regular use of LinkedIn, then you don’t need to go far for a reliable news source. LinkedIn has spent a lot of time optimising and improving LinkedIn Today for both desktop and mobile, the result is that it’s one of the main features of the site.
Tailoring the news for you based on your interests, LinkedIn Today will also show you what stories are trending in each sector so that you’re up to date. If you’re a regular user of the LinkedIn app, you won’t need anything else to keep up to date.
Social Media Search
If you’re just looking for a snapshot of the day’s trends and popular articles, it’s worth trying out some of the analytics search engines available online. The most popular examples are Topsy and Bottlenose Search, each one provides you with trending articles, multimedia links, people and comments, giving you a snapshot of a particular industry.
Twitter & Facebook Lists
If you’re logged onto Facebook and Twitter regularly and you know what you want, then why not create lists and keep all your news in the one place. Every media outlet has both a Twitter and Facebook feed so why not take advantage of that.
Creating a list on either site is easy (Facebook users can find lists here) and makes it harder for you to miss any important content, provided you keep the list focused. Something worth keeping in mind is that Facebook’s lists are easier to keep track off, but Twitter’s quick and snappy nature is better for those who like browsing through their feed.
10 Tips & Tools To Deal With Information Overload; image attribution flickr user stevegarfield