Dealing with "information assault"

Rigsbee Pie 0710I get about 60 trade magazines mailed to my office per month and about 10 electronic newsletters in my e-mail inbox every day. Add social networking — LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — and I'm bombarded hourly.

How about you? Are you finding it hard to decide where to dedicate your time? For over 20 years I have been listening to my friend, Dr. Terry Paulson, talk about how "today's" information flow is like trying to sip from a fire hydrant. We have a two-fold challenge; information flow and information retention.

Let's face it, how many "pending" e-mails are in your inbox, neatly stored in an archive system? How many sources of information flow are you dealing with? Most importantly, how much of this information do you really need?

A couple of years ago, for some unknown reason, America Online closed the e-mail account that I had been using for over a decade. I thought the world had come to an end. After a while I realized that it was no major disaster and actually was a nice spring cleaning. The point is that we hold onto so much that we might someday use and all that stuff is creating what I call "information constipation." Right this minute, look around your office. What can you toss? Before you read another word, get up and toss it. (Yes, I mean right now.) Didn't that feel good? That's what we all need more of — the willingness to toss stuff.

Toss And Block

While de-cluttering one's mind and workplace is a very liberating experience, one must make decisions on standard operating procedures (SOPs) about what to accept, to keep, to toss or to block. Below, I've listed some helpful "dumping" questions. But first, you do need to develop some sort of system for yourself to easily retrieve the stuff you really do need. And that is very little. Perhaps understanding why we do not get stuff done will help in the decision process.

Why We Do Not Do Stuff

The information above is from a survey I recently conducted. I asked, "What keeps you from doing what you say?" I realize that you may have more than one issue, however is there one that when resolved, the others cascade behind and become resolved?

Getting Over It

At the end of each day, we all do a quick mental review and are either pleased or displeased with the day's activities. When pleased, we sleep well. But when we believe we could have achieved so much more, sleep can be an elusive commodity.

Below are some questions to ask yourself about the flow and retention of your physical and mental junk.

1. Do I really, really, really need to look at this?

2. Do I really, really, really need to keep this?

3. What's the worst thing that could happen if I didn't have access to this?

4. Am I really, really, really willing to tell others to stop sending me stuff?

My best suggestion is for you to first, only accept what you really need, and secondly, scan and dump most of what you do accept. This will keep you in the know, and out of the clutter. The reality is, you will be able to find the info again if you really need it. The great lesson that I learned from AOL closing my account was that I really didn't need all that information that I was hoarding. How about you?

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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