How to manage information overload

How can you manage a steady stream of e-mails, texts, tweets, phone calls and RSS feeds?

I use a combination of Stephen Covey’s First Things First approach, and David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

From First Things First, I always try to set aside at least an hour a day for something that is very important, regardless of its seeming lack of urgency.   What’s important?   Personal well-being (trip to the Doctor).  Parenting (taking one of my kids for Pizza). Financial well-being (balancing my checkbook). Learning (reading a book that will help any of the above, or my career).  Sometimes I am focusing on a specific project that will help me meet my goals.  If I need to do this alone, I go to a quiet place where no one can find me, turn off my cell phone, and get to work.  

Then I use the Getting Things Done “funnel” system.  All of my e-mail accounts (I think I have five) are funneled into two e-mail accounts, work and personal.   I don’t carry a smartphone and I don’t check e-mail continuously throughout the day.

I first go through my voice-mails, then personal e-mails, then my work emails.  As I go through these, I do any task that can be finished in five minutes or less, and anything that can’t wait.  Like everyone, I receive a lot of junk e-mail.  I have set up many rules in my e-mail organizers to keep these out of sight and mind.

Any remaining tasks get funneled to my to-do-list (I use OmniFocus for iPad, the greatest task organizer made).

As I take on new projects, I input the individual tasks required for them into OmniFocus, assigning due dates, etc.

I go through my OmniFocus to-do list each Sunday night or Monday morning in order to plan the tasks I will complete for the coming week.

Two more tricks to managing information overload, which I hope to discuss in future posts:

  1. Don’t do everything.  Some tasks were never meant to be done.
  2. Don’t work all of the time.  Take at least one full day off a week (all gadgets off) and don’t check your Blackberry every time another email buzzes in.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *