Scaling The Tower of Babble – Managing Information Overload

Lots of stuff, too little time.  I find that when I am looking for something in particular, either I find it right away – it’s at the top of Google’s list – or I wade through pages and pages of irrelevant material scanning for what I want.  Then there’s reading through feeds in Google Reader – one RSS feed after another that I should have skipped.  Then there are all the e-mail accounts I need to check, one for work, one for school, one for personal/junk, one for personal/private, etc.  Don’t forget the social networks I’m on – need to skim through those and see if anything interesting has happened.  When Robert Scoble was recently banned from Facebook (his account was reinstated after a slap on the wrist), I wonder if he didn’t secretly think to himself “good, one less social network to keep track of”…

Another interesting aspect to this question is how I manage my output of information.  I generate photos, posts, all sorts of login/password/identification info, and somewhere out there that’s all taking up space on various servers.  I know I’m a drop in the bucket as an individual, but every little bit helps.  What can I do to consolidate and “defragment” my online presence?

I recommend applying the 80/20 rule – inspired by Pareto’s Principle.  The idea is 80% of your resources – like your time and attention – are consumed by 20% of your activities – like reading e-mail or RSS feeds.  If you identify the 20% that’s sucking up all these resources, you can narrow down your activities to the ones that give you most bang for your buck – and free up some of that 80%. 

Applying that to my case, I notice that I spend way more time looking at my iGoogle home page than I do checking any of my social networks.  I haven’t looked at my LinkedIn profile, MySpace, or YouTube accounts for probably a month.  Who knows what interesting things are going on there.  Rather than making a special trip here and there to those various social networks, I can funnel them all into Google Gadgets and stick them on the front page.  Ahh, Google.

As for managing my output, it’s all about streamlining.  Consistently using the same user name is good thinking, since it makes me recognizable.  I have a blog, a social network profile, and a personal web page, but I need to merge them and give people a better experience trying to find me.  Taking the time now to do all this will generate time and increase productivity, especially as my online presence grows to be a more fundamental part of everyone’s experience of me.

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