Three Quick Ways To Cut Information Overload

StressThe digital age is a beautiful thing; we can get information about anything we like in almost any way we like at any time. We can consume up-to-the-minute content on the phones that we carry everywhere, we can get the latest posts by our favourite bloggers delivered to us by email (hint hint), we can follow events as they happen on Twitter, it’s all at the tips of our fingers.

But what of our productivity or our sanity? I don’t know about you, but I’ve recently been struggling with this just being too much. My RSS reader in Chrome was regularly alerting me to the fact that I had over 900 unread articles, my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing and I was generally feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information I was trying to absorb while actually having a life.

Here’s how I beat it.

Segment And Cull Your RSS Subscriptions

I generally read a lot of articles on the train to work on my phone or tablet. I use Feedly (it’s awesome, by the way), but at one point I had over 100 feeds in there. This wasn’t conducive to getting through everything.

This isn’t helped by the SEO echo chamber effect – I can have 100 unread articles and 92 will be largely the same. So I decided to break away from this.

I deleted all my feeds from Feedly, created the categories that I was interested in (SEO, Writing, Productivity, Social, Tech, Comics) and enforced a three-feed rule. I have literally only allowed myself a maximum of three feeds per category, so I had to be pretty cold. Anything outside these three, you follow on Twitter (most people Tweet their new posts a few times) or, if they don’t Tweet that often, sign up for email updates.

Of course, that can cause a separate problem.

Use Unroll.Me To Cut Down On Emails

I’ve found that a big cause of information overload has been the sheer volume of emails I get throughout the day, many of which aren’t particularly useful. Most of them are “latest offers” from places I bought something from once, tools giving me my latest reports or other newsletters. These are great, but I really don’t need them to be making my phone buzz all day.

Unroll.Me will go through your Gmail inbox, find anything like this and pull them all into one list. From here, you can decide if you want to bulk unsubscribe (handy) or add them to your “roll-up”. It’ll then send you all of these emails in one at a time of your choice as often as you like rather than constantly through the day. All your newsletters in one go and you can decide if you actually want to read them.

I must say, this has cut my email by a huge amount, allowing me a lot more uninterrupted time. Unroll.Me is free, quick to set up and well worth the effort it takes to do it.

Kill Your Notifications

How important are all those app notifications you get on your phone or tablet, really? Do you need your phone vibrating throughout the day to tell you that someone you’ve never met “Likes” your cousin’s photo that you “Liked” too? Do you need to be interrupted to hear that someone voted up an answer to a question on Quora that you left last month? Didn’t think so.

If you can turn off push notifications for anything that’s not overly important, do so. Personally, I’ve got a bit of a problem with that at the moment since I just can’t seem to get my Gmail to stop sending a vibrating alert to my new Nexus 4, but everything else, unless it’s a private Facebook or LinkedIn message, a mention or DM on Twitter, a comment on here or a text message, my phone doesn’t vibrate or flash. I can choose when I check what’s going on with my apps and my other social networking accounts and that is one of the biggest stress-relievers I can share.

How about you? Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? I hope you’ve found today’s post useful.

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