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How to Keep from Drowning in Information Without Missing What You Really Need to Know

All of us have a lot of information to process in our daily lives. Information is readily available – almost too readily available – and healthcare is exploding with information that must be read, processed, prioritized, and sometimes filed for future reference.

During the course of the day, I typically skim, read and sometimes participate in:

  • Google News (and sometimes Fast Flip)
  • Google+
  • Listserv email
  • Business and personal email
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook

Yikes! It is so easy to spend a hours consuming new information every day and still feel that you’ve missed something.  So how does a manager stay current without spending the entire day reading and organize information so you can find it when you want it?

Here are five things I do to manage information:

  1. Slim your reading down with the Unsubscribe Rule. If you’ve received three emails from a person or company or newsletter and nothing in the three interested you, unsubscribe. It’s not worth subscribing if you have to look at more than 3 emails to receive something of value. The time-to-value ratio is not working for you. Don’t forget to also unsubscribe to magazines. I’ve stopped reading professional magazines and paper newsletters as I really believe there is nothing in them that I can’t find online.
  2. Use Instapaper to easily file away articles for later consumption. Instapaper is a free program my son told me about that allows me to click on web articles I am interested in but don’t have time to read. Once I click, the articles are filed for me to read later. Sometimes just the thought that I’ve captured something that I might need later satisfies me and when I check back in, it seems clearer what I need to attend to and what I can just delete.
  3. Set email rules and filters, prioritize and label. Use the tools in your Outlook (good tips here) or gmail (good tips here) to organize your email and make sure you can find what you need when you need it. I automatically move listserv and LinkedIn notifications into separate areas so I am not tempted to get distracted by topics and conversations when I need to focus on the task at hand. You can also use the digest version of a listserv and get just one email a day from each group you belong to.
  4. Delete liberally. You can always Google it. If the information isn’t immediately important, you can always Google it later. Unless the information is very obscure, most information can be found on demand by searching.
  5. Set aside time to read and process without interruptions. It takes 2 or 3 times as long to move through information if you’re constantly interrupted. Put a note on your door that says “Do Not Disturb”, push the Do Not Disturb button on your phone and close your door.

 

Here are a few more ways I organize information:

  • If I start thinking about a project I am working on and have some ideas I want to jot down quickly, I will sometimes open/compose a new email and leave it in draft form until I am ready  to cut and paste the information into a document or spreadsheet.
  • If I come across something I really want to read and absorb but just don’t have the time, I will copy the article’s web address (url) and paste it into my calendar for a less-busy day so I won’t forget to look at it.

How do you keep from drowning in information and make sure you separate the good stuff from the junk?