Information can add incredible value to our lives. It can also be a major source of overwhelm. Here are four simple ways to gain control and get information working for rather than against you.
Could you be a hoarder of information?
Even if you’ve managed to streamline your possessions, there could still be a hidden source of clutter you’re holding on to: information. We both seek it out and have it pushed upon us. While physical information is easy to see, digital information is also an ever-increasing issue. And when it comes to information, being smart and curious can actually work against us as we chase the thrill of new information and equate our value with how much we know.
| When it comes to information, being smart and curious can actually work against us as we chase the thrill of new information and equate our value with how much we know |
Assess the situation for yourself: Do you hoard any of the following types of information?
- Magazines and newspapers
- Social media content and blog posts
- Torn-out recipes and articles
- Text messages and emails
- Receipts and paperwork
- Study and course notes
- Travel brochures
How do you consume information?
The way you consume information can have a lot to do with how you manage it and whether you tend to hold onto or release it.
- Do you binge on information and get lost in it for longer than you would like?
- Do you focus on consuming quality over quantity content?
- Do you exercise control over information channels such as catalogues, television, mail, email and social media?
- Do you ever give yourself a break or do you have some form of information streaming at you all day (radio, TV, Internet, social media)?
- Do you prefer to hold on to as much information as possible or are you selective about what you keep?
- How often do you use (refer back to or act on) the information you keep?
Four simple ways to manage information better
The old way: Let information pile up until you feel too overwhelmed to deal with it.
The new way: Regularly re-set your incoming information sources to zero: empty your physical and digital inboxes, mark your blog feed reader as ‘read’, unsubscribe from unwanted catalogues and subscriptions, return unread books to the library, and read or recycle everything in your to-read folder.
The old way: Let others dictate when, what and how much information you consume.
The new way: Master your information consumption and guard against the mass of trashy material that adds no value to your life by setting up a healthy information plan. Decide what you really want to read, when you'll read it, and for how long. There’s a real risk of getting lost in certain information sources, such as social media, so set a timer to stay on track. This teaches you to consume information mindfully, and as long as you stick to the timer, it guarantees you won't procrastinate.
The old way: Hold on to any piece of information that has had, or may have, any sort of meaning for you.
The new way: Let the world store information on your behalf. You can’t hold everything in your mind, just as you can’t store all of it on your hard drive or in your filing cabinet. Accept that the information you keep will always be incomplete, and that most of it can be easily found again if you need it. Keep only the best and most essential information and leave the rest to be managed by the Internet, libraries, bookstores and social media companies.
The old way: Keep adding material to reading piles, folders, filing cabinets and computers. Rarely look at it again.
The new way: We need to use or action information to unlock its value. Cook the recipes in the folder or bookmarked on your computer, pull out the travel brochures and plan a trip, read the magazines in your in-tray, enjoy the letters from old friends, and display the best artwork your children create. If you notice you're never acting upon or retrieving stored information, let it go and free your energy for information that really does help you improve your world.
| We need to use or action information to unlock its value |
There is a phenomenal amount of information out there and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Put a plan in place for how you’ll consume, keep and use the most relevant, useful and interesting material and discover how much power gaining control over information can give you.
Are you a hoarder of information or do you manage to make it work for you? What strategies do you use to manage information?