Incoming Information Workflow
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the incoming information streams, whether it’s the latest news headlines or tech buzz. In the past couple of months I’ve been close to pulling the plug all together and disconnecting myself from the many information pipelines. Unfortunately I enjoy it too much and frankly I’m too addicted to it. So if I can’t eliminate it, there needs to be a way to handle it.
For me the best way to get a handle on the information overload is to determine the information that is really important to me and eliminate the rest. My chosen topic mix is:
- Tech News (this is the majority of it, with a heavy internet technologies influence)
- Personal Blogs (friends and family blogs)
- Personal/Professional Productivity
- Major News Headlines
On the surface this seems pretty broad. But the real cutting down happens in the specifics. I’m very judicious with what feeds I keep in my feed reader, if I find myself skipping multiple stories in a row I delete that feed right away. When you have 100+ stories coming in every day it’s important to eliminate the noise. I pick up new feeds once or twice a week and give them a trial run before deciding if they will stay in my regular mix or not (this is done via a separate folder in NewsFire).
When I sit down to read my feeds in the morning I plow through them in chronological order across all categories. I usually run through them quickly, clicking on the titles that stand out to me (if they don’t have full text) or reading them directly in NewsFire. If I don’t have time to read the article (or just don’t feel like it) I use Instapaper.com to save them for later reading. This service is extremely handy now that they have added the ‘text’ feature which strips everything but the text out of the article for easy reading on my phone.
Using this process I go through all the news items in my feed reader, reading the items right away or saving them to be read later. I only do this once a day to improve productivity. If I have down time throughout the day and need something to read I use my Instapaper.com list to fill the time.
The last step in this process is moving items into a more permanent bookmarked position. I use del.icio.us to do this. In the past I would use del.icio.us liberally resulting in thousands of bookmarks most of which I never looked at again, partly because it was such an overwhelming list. I now use Instapaper.com for all links that are temporary and only post to del.icio.us links I want to be sure to hang on to.
This process has worked really well for me. Being quick to cut ‘noise feeds’ makes the incoming information manageable to begin with. Reading my feeds once a day reduces the subconscious stress of thinking I’m missing stuff because I know that I’ll only be a day late if I read them the next morning and it allows me to focus on other things (like work) by removing the constant interruptions. And lastly using a temporary holding pen for links removes the distractions from my permanently stored links making it easier to locate items in the future.