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June 7, 2011

Discuss: How do you handle information overload?

We’re addressing information overload at Faith & Leadership this week. We asked several Christian leaders -- including Wilson Gunn and Jeff Woods -- for their strategies. We’d also like to hear about yours.

How do you keep the cacophony of emails, text messages, Twitter feeds, blog rolls, Facebook pages, viral videos, (viral videos that mock other viral videos), RSS feeds and online databases from becoming the digital noise that drowns out your life? (And let’s not ignore the tinge of irony in posing this question on a blog.)

There’s something deeply (and theologically) suspicious about a veneered life of endless digital connectivity. But in contrast, Luddite arguments against technology seem myopic and reductionist.

How do you manage information overload so you don’t go crazy? (Like this couple):

11 Comments

Nice

Ben,
Nice video. Definitely a good question. I don't know that I have many good strategies except that lately I've been trying to read my email only once or twice a day. I do find the daily News and Events email from LE@DD very helpful for staying plugged in. I'll look forward to reading what others have to say about their own strategies.

Too many tabs

I have to try to limit the number of tabs I open in my browser. I'll sometimes have a dozen tabs with articles to read and will feel like I can't do anything else until I read them all. It helps if I print them out and then close the tab. Then I can leave the hard copies around my car or bedroom so that I can forget and rediscover them. Physical clutter is easier to deal with than digital clutter.

Immediate response?

Tom,

I remember trying something similar while in seminary. For a short time, I would check/respond to email for only one hour every morning. It worked for a while, but something that demanded (or so I thought) an immediate response always seemed to come up, causing me to break the practice. As a pastor, I imagine this happens to you as well? Got any tips for sticking with this practice in a vocation where so much seems like it requires immediate attention? Maybe it's more about adjusting our perception of what counts as "immediate" or our need to control situations and make decisions about everything? Surprising the way vacations show us how egotistical we can be: Ever come back from one and think, "Huh, this place carried on just fine without me"?

too much stuff

Try to limit my visits to Facebook to twice a day, Twitter to once day and LinkedIn to once a week. Also kill out or file email as soon as I'm done with it, so it doesn't get backlogged and become overwhelming.

I haven't figured it out yet.

I haven't figured it out yet. I'm too easily distracted by emails, overwhelmed by Twitter feeds to the point that I rarely click through to links, and find myself reading Facebook feeds just to see what folks are up to, not really for any useful purpose (though some friends do post interesting articles and reports).

Tried to respond to this but

I was multitasking and didn't get to it...
I LOVE this series guys, thanks for doing it. It does seem to me the church has language for talking about disciplines--we've been trying to fast, abstain, feast, work and play according to scripture and the church year's disciplines for millenia. The fact that we fail is not surprising, being sinners all, but at least with info overload we don't have to start from scratch. These suggestions are really hopeful.

Merlin Mann's blog addressing

Merlin Mann's blog addressing how to manage email has changed my relationship with e-mail, first, then effected all of my access points: http://www.43folders.com/2006/02/06/email-ninja

Now, if I could only have the same discipline around my physical files and piles and post-it notes.

Inbox zero

I love inbox zero. Can't say mine is at zero all the time -- or ever -- but it has reduced my "mental debt."

“Just remember that every email you read, re-read, and re-re-re-re-re-read as it sits in that big dumb pile is actually incurring mental debt on your behalf. The interest you pay on email you’re reluctant to deal with is compounded every day."

Information Overload

I'll have to admit that I definitely suffer from information overload. I am still trying to figure out how I am going to get everything done everyday. I have to check my Youtube stats, Facebook status updates, Twitter updates, and my six email accounts!

Information Overload

Stream of thoughts inspired by this topic.
It seems to me, you have to start with yourself and the model you have for your life. From Jesus to Seven Habits to Quin (playing a pope) there is the call to withdraw and communicate with God. To make time for study and contimplation. Then you have the advice to Moses to turn over to others some of your responsibilities so you can do your job.
So what is your calling? How does constantly seeking more information and networking contribute to that calling?
Once you're on to that, then there are techniques and disciplines to make effective use of networking and information access. You can separate activity from accomplishment and understand what contributes to one or the other.
Lastly, the servant leadership model is great but remember the greatest servant of all withdrew at times to communicate with God, to draw strength for what he had to do.
Ask yourself, does immediately responding to all emails, checking all social networks repeatedly and constantly seeking new information contribute to your calling? How?
Sorry for sounding preachy but I've got an emotional investment in this topic.

You know you're overloaded when

You know you're overloaded with information when this seems like a good product to purchase: http://www.theworldsbestever.com/2011/01/11/like-a-sandwich-bluetooth/

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