Information Overload!

17th January 2008 / Day 17 (382)
Help! What next? Image by Mrs Magic via Flickr

I admitted it aloud recently to a good friend. I’m reaching a point, which in some ways is exciting, of overload. I don’t even have kids or pets, but face so many choices and decisions it’s hard to know where to prioritize, focus and begin.

Right now, these include:

finishing and hopefully selling the proposal for my third book

opening and stocking my Etsy shop, AtlasoftheHeart

planning and marketing a writing workshop for next January in New Mexico

creating the photo book I began back in March at the Banff Springs Hotel

starting the proposal for my fourth book

getting “Malled” sold to some overseas markets

planning and executing a fund-raising campaign for a writers’ charity whose board I belong to

reaching out to new freelance clients to line up more work

following up with several amazing people I’ve recently met, with whom I hope to work

connecting on LinkedIn with all 65 people I just met at the retail conference I spoke at

following up in detail with three or four of them on a specific idea we discussed

finding more local speaking engagements for “Malled”

seeking and setting up readings and events for “Malled”

seeking and finding blogs on which to write guest posts to promote it

trying to repair — do I want to? — the non-speaking relationship with my mother

losing more weight so I can (shriek) schedule my hip replacement surgery

seeking and finding more paid venues at which to speak about “Malled”

staying in touch with friends worldwide

reading for pure pleasure

reading for book proposal research

long afternoons sitting with a good friend face to face

meeting new business contacts

mining my Facebook and LinkedIn connections

answering LinkedIn questions to stay visible within that community

choosing which cultural events like ballet, concerts, dance, theater to attend and getting tickets

staying in touch with several friends facing health issues, one whose Mom is quite ill

dealing more thoughtfully with my investments


And that’s not even including writing this blog and responding to the many interesting people who comment.

The New York Times recently ran an interesting essay on the current paucity of “big ideas”, based on the current Niagara of data we have no time to thoughtfully absorb or process:

But if information was once grist for ideas, over the last decade it has become competition for them. We are like the farmer who has too much wheat to make flour. We are inundated with so much information that we wouldn’t have time to process it even if we wanted to, and most of us don’t want to.

The collection itself is exhausting: what each of our friends is doing at that particular moment and then the next moment and the next one; who Jennifer Aniston is dating right now; which video is going viral on YouTube this hour; what Princess Letizia or Kate Middleton is wearing that day. In effect, we are living within the nimbus of an informational Gresham’s law in which trivial information pushes out significant information, but it is also an ideational Gresham’s law in which information, trivial or not, pushes out ideas.

We prefer knowing to thinking because knowing has more immediate value. It keeps us in the loop, keeps us connected to our friends and our cohort. Ideas are too airy, too impractical, too much work for too little reward. Few talk ideas. Everyone talks information, usually personal information.

Here’s a thought-provoking list of possible things to reply to from Seth Godin’s blog.

How do you handle or manage all the data and demands coming at you, personally and professionally?

15 thoughts on “Information Overload!

  1. I feel a bit like yourself really. So much to do but what I really want to do the most is meet old friends face-to-face and read for pleasure. For me, making lists sometimes makes all these goals harder to achieve as the lists seem to lengthen the long finger they are already perched precariously on. Being on holidays doesn’t help my productivity/creativity balance either. Good luck with it all 🙂

  2. I think you touched on this concept in a previous post, but I have learned to say no to some things in order to get others done. My day job is picking up, and I’ve had to travel and take meetings, and answer copious emails. I use my days off to write for me, unwind, connect and generally not think about work.

    I write away from the computer.
    I don’t answer the phone
    I make sure I have supplies/chocolate cake
    I turn on music and do things I don’t have time to do, because I’ve been doing stuff I have no time for.
    If I don’t want to do ANYTHING, I escape to the movies, or just go to bed.

    I’ve also developed a taste for trashy books I wouldn’t read if I actually had time to read. Those work, too!

    Good luck with your list, and let me know if anything on mine helps you!

    1. I like the importance of chocolate cake! Yesterday I spent the entire day in bed or on the sofa, reading, watching TV and just relaxing. Felt wonderful. Bed helps!

      The challenge for me is still prioritizing what’s on the list. They all feel equally important and the longer-term projects need a lot of advance planning…

  3. I’m beginning to experience that a lot these days. Every weekend is mapped to perfection, which is a disaster for one who has many imperfections, chief of which is organisation.

    1. Oh God no!!!! I was hugely relieved yesterday when it poured all day long as I had committed to going sail racing and was so not in the mood to spend 5 hours with strangers.

      To me, weekends are all about spontaneous fun. The weeks are bad enough!

  4. I find myself in the same boat! Too much of a good thing should be good, right? When all else fails, the information too much for my little brain to compute, I breathe. That seems to get me through it!

    1. That sounds sort of….sexy.

      I have a red leather Filofax that I love, but there is no room for all the things I am trying — short, medium and long-term — to accomplish within its elegant pages.

      This blog list might have to be it.

  5. True, one can always cut the list. But, for me, that’s also cutting back my ambitions, and my potential income. At this point in my life — after 30 years’ working — my goal is to stop working! That means staying focused on maximizing my income and savings, which in turn dictates my choices.

    Some people live to work. I work to live.

  6. Know Thy Time! Everyone has the same 24 hours in each day. It’s amazing however to see what some accomplish in it while others seemingly waste it. The key is to ensure you spend that time doing those things that matter most and learning to rule your schedule, not the other way around. Work hard, play hard, rest hard.

  7. Living in two states and juggling multiple jobs, projects, and hobbies, I limit and control incoming data the following ways:

    1. No Facebook – people can call or email me directly if there’s something going on in their lives that I really need to know about.
    2. Regular Yoga/Meditation – my defragmenting time. The practice in and of itself helps me separate the important from the unimportant information in life.
    3. I set time limits for reading and dealing with email. I read email with my calendar and MS Notebook handy, organize accordingly, and delete often.
    4. I keep a daily to-do list that is part of a larger to-do system. I review my system regularly and tweak it as needed. (I’m currently reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. I’ve incorporated a lot of his suggestions into my system).
    5. I’m getting a lot better at saying, “No” and conditional “Yes”.

    1. Thanks! These are all such great techniques. I love the time for de-fragging. Since my retreat, I’m trying to listen much less to TV and radio, which reduces a lot of stress as I pay attention — and don’t need to. I read 3 newspapers so I don’t need more “news.” It gives me more time to…sit still and just be.

      I also keep a running to-do list, usually on my desk and in my Filofax, where there is so little room to write anything it forces me to choose! I also keep a box at the front door with the super-priority items I will have to see every time I pass them. That way I can’t forget. I really wish I had an office! One of my challenges is wrangling all the bits of paper attached to all my various ideas and projects.

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