papers pile up on woman's desk
Stress-Free Living

Vanquishing Information Overload

Too much information, constantly, can lead to stress. Each day, do you feel besieged by information on a continual basis?  There is good reason: one estimate holds that information doubles in the world every72 days.  The Library of Congress catalogues 7,000 new items each day.  More than 2,000 new Websites go online each day. A minimum of two thousand books are published world wide each day. Whew!

If you’re able to eliminate a lot of the extraneous information that makes its way to you, you will actually experience being overwhelmed less frequently, and you will not feel as exhausted.  It’s important to understand that you control the spaces in your life, because information is stored in spaces–tables, shelves, desks, jump drives, web sites, etc.

If your desk is a mess right now, strewn high with piles that are growing higher, remember you’re the one who controls that space. The same principle applies to your shelves, table tops, counters, closets, or glove compartment.  You are the one controlling your space, and this acknowledgment will allow you to stay in control of your information.

If you’re facing volumes of information, divide and conquer.  You may be facing a ten-inch pile of information.  Put it into file folders, and group like items together.  Eliminate duplicates and prioritize the important items in a given file.  It’s harmful to ingest too much information at once.  At least half the job of dealing with most information is simply dividing it into piles, categorizing, or putting it into various directories on your hard drive.

It’s worth considering the benefits of having a file folder for each month of the year and a file folder for each day of the month.  This idea, the “tickler file,” has been in practice for years.  Create a file for days 1-31 of the month, and place it at the front of one of your file drawers.  Behind that, have a file for each month of the year.

If it’s the second day of the month, for example, but you receive something that you won’t need to deal with until the 15th, then put it in the file for, say, the 13th to allow yourself some slack.  If anything comes in that you don’t need to handle now, put it in your tickler file.  This yields some immediate benefits.  It keeps your desk clear and eliminates a lot of worry about where things go.

What else works?  I suggest opening your mail over the wastebasket; it’s much easier to throw things out with the waste basket below you.  If you get a magazine or journal, go through it rapidly and take out the articles or items that look like they’ll be of interest.  Recycle the rest of the publication.

Hereafter, whenever information crosses your desk, ask yourself:

*Should I have received this at all?

*What is the issue behind this document?

*Is the information of marginal value such that I could easily skip it?

*In retrospect, will there be no dent in your career for not retaining it?  If so, then let it go!

* Will it matter if I don’t handle it at all?

* What am I saving it for?

* Do I need it, or do I fear that if I don’t have it, I’ll somehow be deficient?

*Does it support what I already know or believe?

* Can I file the new information in the tickler file as something to review next month?  Most of what crosses your desk doesn’t need to linger; it can go elsewhere.

When you’re in control of your information, you can better retrieve and more easily use it.  Information is power, but if you can’t find what you’ve retained, it’s of no value.


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