Three Ways to Take Control of Information Overload

Imagine that you have a small and dainty tea cup in your hands. You are extremely thirsty and would love to fill your cup with some nice, cool, and refreshing water. Luckily, a nice young man with a fire hose happens to be with you (a convenient situation indeed). He kindly offers to fill your cup with water and you are nearly giddy with excitement. He turns the valve on the nozzle as you hold your tea cup at the ready.

A blast of icy water erupts from the hose and nearly knocks you on your back. Your tea cup flies out of your hands and shatters on the sidewalk. You're still thirsty but now you're also dazed, sore, and wet.

This is how I feel about the Internet.

My RSS feed, my Twitter timeline, Facebook status updates, and a never ceasing flow of email all serve as the high pressure hose to my mind's dainty tea cup. I crave information like my fictional character craved water. However, the sheer volume and velocity of content makes it nearly impossible to actually get anything worthwhile in my tea cup of a mind.

This can't continue much longer. How much sense would it make to get back up, dripping and aching, glue my teacup back together, and tap the man with the hose on the shoulder and ask for more. How many times do we get knocked down by the information wave only to get up and ask for more?

I can't do it anymore and here's how I'm getting control.

  1. Living in an apartment with no Internet or TV: I recently moved to a very small apartment that currently has no Internet connection. I could probably rectify that situation but I've actually discovered that I like it. I live close enough to a public library with free wi-fi that I can still connect if there is something I really need to check.
  2. Reducing my RSS feed count by 80%: Lately I've found myself just skimming articles in my feed reader because I'm overwhelmed by how much there is to read. People work hard creating this content and I'm not giving it the attention it deserves. I'm going to ruthlessly cull the number of sites I follow so that I can actually take the time to digest what I read.
  3. Using Instapaper for anything that looks interesting: Instapaper lets me read content on my terms. Especially with limited access to the Internet, I don't want to be wasting time online reading things that I can easily take with me when I log off.

There is just too much excellent information to absorb out there and I don't think I'm doing anybody justice by trying to catch bits and pieces of it as it goes whirling by. I'd much rather fill my tea cup from a small pitcher of delicious lemonade and enjoy it at my leisure.

Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you face everyday? What are you doing about it?