How to manage information overload

 

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There’s a plethora of advice out on the web for founders, not to mention magazine articles, newspaper articles, videos, and books. How do you deal with it all? There isn’t enough time in your day, let alone your lifetime, to read all the blog posts and articles offering advice to startups, including this one. Here are some ways you can manage information overload:

  • As your friends, colleagues and mentors who they follow on Twitter, whose blogs they subscribe to, and what sources they have found most helpful. Build up a list of trusted sources you can rely on to make the time you spend with them a worthwhile investment.
  • Brand names matter! The New York Times business section and The Wall Street Journal both feature stories about startups or technology virtually every day. Subscriptions to these newspapers are expensive. If you can’t afford them here’s a trick: do a Google search on the article you want to read that is mostly blocked behind a pay wall. Often you’ll get access to the full article. And , of course, see if any friends or colleagues subscribe. Forbes is a another great source of advice on startups. And every public library has subscriptions to these newspapers as well as business magazine like Forbes, Bloomberg Business Week, and Fortune.
  • Take note of authors; There are several authors, like Nick Bilton, who I can rely on to write a helpful article. Often authors provide a link to their bio from their byline. You may even find their email there or even at the end of articles they have written. If you have a media relations program start building a list of writers to contact.
  • Use a news aggregator: The news aggregator I’ve been using since it first launched is Flipboard, not only is it free but it’s available on PCs, tablets, and smartphones – at least of the Apple variety, which I is what I use. Flipboard enables you to customize what amounts to an online magazine, based on your interests or publications you want to follow. It’s also beautifully designed. Unfortunately since it’s ad supported it has to drive eyeballs so there are many more listicles featured than when they first launched. But if you only have time for one “publication” make that Flipboard.
  • Learn to scan and skim. Professional writers are taught to use the inverted pyramid for their articles. That means that the most important information will be at the beginning of the article and the level of importance decreases as your read the article, until you hit rock bottom. Journalists are also taught to use what is called the topic sentence. The topic sentence is usually the first sentence in a paragraph and it summarizes the main idea of the paragraph. If you don’t have time to read a full article you can skim by reading only the first paragraph and the topic sentences of succeeding paragraphs. You can also scan the article for keywords. But much more effective is to use article search: Command F on the Macintosh. Using article search I can quickly find every mention of keywords that are important to me, like mentor, as each occurrence is highlighted in yellow.
  • Use the Reading List feature of your browser. I often come across articles on the web that I don’t have time to read, but I can save them for later by adding them to the Reading List feature of my browser, which is Safari on my iPad and iPhone, where I do most of my reading. Alternatively, if you use Evernote, as I’ve been doing for years, you can save any article to a notebook on Evernote. I often copy a salient paragraph and add it to the note – that helps me remember why I saved it in the first place – not always obvious!
  • Make use of dead time. We all spend lots of time waiting in lines or sitting in waiting rooms. Make sure you have a backlog of articles in Evernote or your browser’s reading list and take advantage of dead time to scan and skim an article or two. Make productive use of dead time!
  • Limit notifications. Virtually every app I use wants to send me notifications. If I said yes to all of them I’d be doing nothing else. Limit your notifications to a very small number, then cut out a few. Getting interrupted is very distracting and can wreak havoc with your productivity.
  • Share the wealth. If you find an article that you think would be important for a friend or colleague send them a link. All browsers have sharing built in, as do most news apps. If you prove to be a trusted source of helpful links your colleagues may reciprocate in kind.

 

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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