The Magazine Publishers of America say there were 22,652 different magazines published in 2007, and hundreds of thousands of new books are published each year in the US and the UK alone. If you are one of our Kindle readers, you could be holding over 200 books in your hand, and you can choose from over 1000 blogs available.*** And outside of the Kindle, we're one of literally millions of blogs you could potentially read any given day.
Each day we collectively send over 210 billion e-mail messages, sometimes with attached documents to read, and we can visit billions of web pages (and print them out). The amount of information available to us is truly infinite, as it grows daily and shows no signs of stopping.
The availability this information is a great thing. However, the expectations we put upon ourselves to digest this information can be unrealistic and stressful to the point of gluttonous excess.
I have seen several clients over the years who suffer from this "Information Gluttony." Typically intelligent and diverse in their interests, they subscribe to many magazines, they order from catalogs, and they read a lot of information online. They also subscribe to professional journals that they feel compelled to read. Each day when the mail arrives, it's overwhelming to even sort it out and make sense of where to start! And that is not even counting the electronic information they have piling up on their hard drives, often resulting in stacks of printouts they have not yet read either.
The compounding problem is that, even with the tremendous guilt and anxiety they feel as they survey the stacks around them, they continue to buy more and add more to the piles.
Here are some tips to stop the cycle of Information Gluttony:
- Accept the fact that you cannot ever possibly digest it all. Just as you can only comfortably eat until you're full, there is only so much information one can consume before you run out of time and capacity.
- Prioritize what your top three areas of focus are for learning at this time. For one doctor client of mine, it was her practiced medical specialty, her culinary hobby, and her religious study. All other subjects were then considered second-tier. Re-evaluate this as your interests change.
- Prevent more information from coming in. Stop buying and subscribing to new things until you feel you're back in control. Unsubscribe to magazines you have not read and anything that does not contribute to learning in your three prioritized subject areas. Make sure you check privacy policies when purchasing from catalogs or online stores so that you can prevent being added to more mailing lists. You can also manage catalog subscriptions at www.catalogchoice.org.
- Purge all information older than a certain cutoff date that you determine. For some, anything older than 3 months will be too old, and for others, anything older than 6 months or one year. Adjust this threshold to your comfort level, and then stick to it. Recycle your way back to a manageable stack or two.
- Prune the information that continues to come in by continuing to unsubscribe to unread items and using a "limiting container" to keep the piles managed. When the container, like a basket, is full, it's time to clean it out.
- Stop feeling responsible for creating your own personal library and index of information. Clipping a few articles is okay, but extensively clipping and filing simply is not necessary any longer now that almost everything is searchable and retrievable online.
You can also prioritize by using our A-B-C-D method:
"A" magazines are ones you never want to miss or you must read for work.
"B" publications are favorites but are not quite as important as the "A" ones.
"C" publications are ones you are rarely reading, and
"D" publications are ones you are not reading at all.
Most people have time to read only A and B items, so seriously consider getting rid of anything that is C or D.
For a summary of some of these concepts, watch the video from my spring News 8 Austin series on managing your reading material.
***Hey, guess what!? We're the #2 bestseller overall on Kindle Blogs. THANK YOU everybody!
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