man holding head looking at computer

Managing Information Overload

Alan Melton

With the widespread use of automated email software, landing pages, free online offers, junk mail, and other tactics to get your attention, you are susceptible to your email address or other data being shared on a regular basis. For the promise of a free ebook, checklist, or webinar, many sign up only to become the recipient of endless emails, texts, instant messages, or phone calls.

Sometimes, you may choose to receive emails from someone called Amanda, which is fine, but she gives or sells your contact info to her partners, affiliates, or other business associates.

Or, you visit a website which saves your cookies.

Or, your employees are cc’ing you on a string of emails.

Next thing you know, your voicemail, mailbox, and inbox are full of a constant stream of new information that can suck up your time.

Information can rain down even heavier on industries like information technology, science, and finance.

How to Manage Information Overload

You have now entered the Information Overload zone. Your task is to not let this overload hijack your focus, efficiency, and sanity. Here’s some ideas on how to manage information.

Your Role In Your Information Overload

  • Start by having the mindset to let go. Often, business owners feel they must touch or control everything. It’s OK, we’ve all done that. But, to be truly productive and not waste our precious time, we have to turn some control over to others.
  • Delegate! Assign a staff member or personal assistant (PA) to scan, review, and manage information for you. If you are solopreneur (no employees), then hire a freelance PA. The cost of your time to cull through a bottomless pit of information is worth far more than the cost of a freelancer.
  • Take note when an offer requires that you release personal or business data.

ASK yourself if this material warrants releasing your own information and receiving further contact from this source –

  • If the answer is “no,” then STOP. Don’t enter or give away any of your data. Remember, most of the content or inside info that is being offered can be found by a focused Google search.
  • If “yes,” then you might want to make a note to yourself or someone else to unsubscribe or not reply when you first receive contact from that source.
  • Avoid signing up for automated notifications or alerts.
  • List all your email addresses (personal and business) and choose whether they should be checked daily or weekly.
  • Identify favorite information sources for online content such as blogs, newsletters, and columns and for printed material such as mail, magazines, or newspapers and texts or voicemail on your phone. Tips:
    • Limit the number of favorite information sources to a certain number. You can do this by content type or just a maximum total for any reading material.
    • Be sure to include sources with whom you have a business or personal connection in order to nurture the relationship.
    • For a certain week or month, you can inform PA to look for certain specific topics only.
    • To reduce the pile, list those sources which should automatically be trashed.
  • You can develop a system of marking physical items such as magazines, mail, or publications for a different disposition:
    • F – file
    • S – send to a third party (such as lawyer, bookkeeper)
    • RL – review later
    • C – cancel
    • T – trash

Of course, you may have your own system for marking. Just be consistent and have a tickler system for revisiting material at a later time.

The PA’s Role: Delegate to Reduce Your Information Overload

  • Read or review each information source content (whether in mail, email, text messages, or voicemail):
    • As instructed, delete or throw away all unwanted information.
    • Write a short synopsis of each favorite information source:
      • In a single list, show only the information source, content title, and a one-sentence summary of content that, as needed, includes costs, dates, and times
Woman holding head while looking at computer.

Examples:

  • GoDaddy.com | How to show up first in search engine results | Offer for $99 one-hour webinar on 11/15 at 3:00 pm EST
  • Brad Shelton | Here’s your gift! | A link to PDF entitled “How to Handle Employee Absenteeism”Based on summaries, request for P.A. to read full content or watch webinar, then compile notes on content for you.Have them identify new sources that have unique, helpful, or relevant content.

Examples:

  • PsychForBiz| Understanding different workplace personalities | Link to blog on their website
    • Michele Jackson | Offer Ends Tonight | Offer for new SEO approach for $29.99/month

If not desired, request P.A. to unsubscribe, delete, or trash.

  • Identify duplication of content (partners & affiliates cross-sell each other’s events or offerings).
    • Delete the senders who duplicate information from existing favorite information sources.
  • Conduct online searches, keeping strictly to finding the material requested.
  • Optionally, the PA can track metadata from favorite information sources, which may be used later to reduce the volume even further:
    • Frequency of information such as emails, texts, or phone messages
    • Category of content (email marketing, SEO, social media, etc.)
    • Type of offerings (webinars, systems, events, articles, etc.)
      • May note whether offerings are free or have a cost.

When reviewing summaries from a designated assistant, stay focused on your reading by avoiding all other distractions and having a clear workspace. You may even choose to go to an empty conference room or nearby café. Another good idea is to review the material at a time of day when your head and schedule are clear.

Conclusion

Information overload may seem like a fact of life, but it’s really something we allow when we don’t have a plan to manage it.

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