InformationSometimes just looking at my inbox with all its accumulated newsletters, “urgent” announcements, deadline reminders and “once-in-a-lifetime” special offers is enough to make me want to run screaming from my laptop.  In addition to email, there’s my hard drive with all its mp3s, e-books, courses and articles.  All the info can get out of hand pretty fast.

Here are some tips I’ve been using myself to tackle the madness and keep me feeling like I’ve got a handle on things:

1.    Get picky—unsubscribe!

It’s so easy to look at all of the e-zines out there and become convinced that you need to subscribe to a huge amount of them because they speak to your interests or include an mp3 or PDF with your subscription that you just must have.  It’s not so bad to subscribe to someone’s newsletter to check out their offerings or grab the free taste they’ve enticed you with.  It’s when you are consistently subscribing and not reviewing those subscriptions at least once in a while that makes you feel like you’re drowning.

How to stay in control?  Decide to take an inventory of your inbox periodically and unsubscribe from any newsletters or lists you don’t read regularly or that don’t provide you with any real value.  You’ll feel like a giant weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.  Try it, you won’t miss anything earth-shattering by cutting some of this stuff loose—I promise.

2.    Start a “swipe” file

This method is great for organizing and filing away any helpful or important information you want to keep track of for later reading or reference.  Whether it’s an issue of an e-zine, a sales page you want to model for future endeavors, or a blog’s list of categories you’d like to revisit for post ideas, you can keep these in a folder on your hard drive or bookmarked for later perusal.  I find this to be great for keeping track of all the interesting tidbits you can come across while surfing the web.

3.    Choose mp3s over pdfs

If you are like me and enjoy downloading lots of guides, e-books, free reports and the like, you quickly discover you can accumulate lots of these in a relatively short amount of time.  What helps me is to download the mp3 version if one is offered.  This way I just pop it onto my ipod and listen when it’s convenient.  Sometimes audio is just more manageable than sitting down to read.  Plus, it’s just nice to switch things up a bit.

4.    Skim, jot important points into Google Notebook, discard.

I happen to love Google Notebook because of the handy dandy Firefox add-on you can access quickly. (Google recently decided they weren’t going to support Notebook anymore; however, you can still use it if you had already signed up for it.  If not, I suggest trying out Evernote .) But you can use whatever works for you—Word doc, text file, anything for putting down quick notes or copy and pasting useful quotes and tips you find.  This is especially cool for consolidating the inbox—instead of keeping whole newsletters or articles, I simply copy the main points I want to hang onto and then delete the rest out of my email.

5.    Use an RSS Feed Reader

If you read lots of blogs like I do, a feed reader is a must.  I use Google Reader and love how you can keep your feeds organized with labels and folders.  It’s nice to have one place to go to see all your favorite blogs and keep track of new postings without going all over the web or constantly using bookmarks.  The features make it really efficient.

These aren’t meant to be the end-all be-all solutions to info overwhelm, but I find any little bit helps.  With so much darn stuff out there it’s nice to have some methods in place to keep the craziness to a minimum!

I’d love to hear from you and what types of tips or methods you suggest for dealing with information overload.  Leave a comment and let me know!

Photo Credit: gavinandrewstewart

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