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Guest Post: Avoiding Information Overload

Organized Scrapbooking by Aby Garvey

How many emails are in your in-box? How many magazines are in your "to-read" (or sift through again) pile? How many blogs or information websites do you peruse on a daily basis -- just for fun? Between magazines, blogs, websites, e-zines, pod-casts, books, newspapers, and television shows, information OVERLOAD is almost inevitable. It's simply impossible to get through a single day without being flooded with new (and often EXCITING) information.

WHY WE DO IT

The information is exciting because we seek out information on topics that INTEREST us. You subscribe to e-zines on organizing because you're interested in organizing. Right? So while all this information is exciting -- it comes with a bit of baggage: the information you collect represents TASKS on your mental to-do list. When you collect information, you collect actions you want to do or feel you should do, even if that to-do is as simple as digesting the information in the newsletter or e-zine.

WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES

Information overload sets in when you accumulate ideas at a faster rate than you can PROCESS them or act on them. Here's how it works. For a while, your idea backlog is inspiring. Then you reach a tipping point: your information starts to feel more overwhelming than motivating; inhibiting action instead of inspiring it. To avoid information overload, you need a new plan, a FILTERING system that allows you to hold onto the information you want and need, and filter out the irrelevant stuff. You will always have more ideas presented to you then you will ever have time to act on. So filter away the overload by keeping ideas that are inspiring to you, relevant to you and will help you in some way.

FILTERING IN ACTION

How does this filtering work? Well, imagine you've just finished boiling noodles for macaroni and cheese. You pull out your colander in an effort to collect the tasty macaroni and filter out the not-so-yummy pasta water. In the case of information, the yummy macaroni are those ideas that are relevant and INSPIRING to you. The icky pasta water, are ideas, that while in and of themselves may be wonderful, simply aren't a FIT for you now, for one reason or another. Unfortunately, there is no magic colander you can pull out whenever information comes your way. Instead, you have to be your own filter. Here's a simple formula using the word "filter" to help you separate the pasta from the water...

F: HOW DO I FEEL

Each time a new bit of information is presented to you, tune in to how it makes you feel. Are you ENERGIZED by the information in your midst or does it leave you feeling overwhelmed? Energizing info is macaroni. Collect information that energizes you.

I: DOES IT INSPIRE ME?

Also ask yourself if the information you've received excites and inspires you. Does it make you want to change your life for the BETTER, engage in some activity that will enhance others' lives, or get involved in a new project that makes use of your creativity?

L: DO I LOVE IT?

Is this idea fun, exciting, and inspiring? Do you love it? Is it something you would ENJOY doing (or at least, enjoy the benefits of when it's done?) Inspiring ideas you love are macaroni ... hang on to them.

T: IS THIS IDEA TIMELY?

When new information lands in your lap ask yourself "is now the RIGHT time to act on this?" If you won't be able to act on an idea (or even read it) in the next twelve months, it's pasta water.

E: IS THIS IDEA ECONOMICAL?

The real question here is this: can I AFFORD to do this now? Think of economy not just in terms of money but also in terms of time. Do you have the time and money to act on this idea now or in the next twelve months? If yes, it's macaroni.

R: IS THIS IDEA RELEVANT?

Does this information solve a PROBLEM for me or teach me about something that is relevant to my life? Does it apply to a project I am working on or planning to start soon? Relevant ideas are the tasty macaroni; irrelevant ideas are pasta water.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SIZE FILTER

So that's the filtering process. But there's just one more thing to keep in mind: how BIG is your colander? Even with the filtering system in place, you may collect more ideas than you can act on. Set up a virtual colander by keeping the information you want to act on in a single location -- either a physical file folder (or binder or drawer) or an electronic file folder. By keeping everything together, you'll always have a feel about how FULL your colander is.

PURGING

And from time to time, you may need to EMPTY your collander -- "spoon out" some excess macaroni ... say the ideas that have grown cold. No matter where your information comes from -- articles in magazines to websites -- run the ideas through your filter. Remember, you can't act on every idea you get. So hang onto the information that solves a real problem for you and that you have the time to act on now or in the foreseeable future. Choose the ideas that inspire you ... the tasty macaroni. And let the icky pasta water go right down the drain.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aby Garvey is a professional organizer and the owner of simplify 101, inc. Her mission is to help you create time and space for what matters most in your home, business, and life. She is also the creator of "The Happy Scrapper" scrapbook organizing system, and co-author of The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker. Visit her web site at simplify101.com.

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