Thursday, May 28, 2009

Input Overload

I haven't written a blog post in more than four months! Yes, just like everyone else in this day and age, I've been crazy busy. But I don't want to go on about that for three paragraphs. I've actually learned something over this hiatus, and I want to share that with you.

I'm a big proponent of reading and learning. As my craving for knowledge has increased over the last few years, I've realized that there's one thing I've been doing really poorly; managing my inputs. (By inputs, I really just mean sources of information, but I'm nerdy like that.) Think about the number of inputs one has nowadays: blogs, newspapers, books, articles, magazines, facebook, Twitter, text messages, voice mail, multiple email accounts, etc. For me, it's gotten to the point where these things have started to control my schedule. I realized this a while ago when I decided to give up reading newspapers, but that was only a tip of the iceberg. After taking a 10,000 ft. view of all this, I've come to this realization:

QUEUEING IS DANGEROUS

Now, I know I've talked a lot about books such as Getting Things Done, which are primarily based on queuing your work, but recently, my queues have started to erupt. Take a look at the number of unread items in my Reader:



Getting my inbox to empty everyday is also starting to take it's toll on me. And the number of unread books on my bookshelf just keeps increasing. Keeping up with Facebook hasn't gotten to me yet, but it's probably just a matter of time. I can't keep up!

Twitter is the latest social phenomenon, and I feel that its lack of queuing has been an important part of its success. It's very easy to keep up with Twitter, and that is something that everybody is yearning for nowadays.

So what's the solution to all this mess? Well, here are a few methods for managing/eliminating queues that I've come across through various sources:
  • Limit the amount of time you check email. You can even have set times during the day.
  • If you are reading something, and you're not enjoying it, put it away and move on to the next thing. Reading for personal development shouldn't be a chore.
  • Try to set up automated ways of shrinking queues. e.g. auto archiving your email after a short period of time (like two weeks)
  • Stop reading the newspaper :P
Sadly, I don't have much more than that. What are some things that you've done to eliminate or manage your input queues?

24 comments:

derek martin said...

If it's not your job to know it, it's ok to not know about it.
Limit browsing/rss to one session per day! AND if you get interrupted, too bad. Your session is over.
Limit tv to one show or movie a day, with none every other day. Read instead (in depth content, not fluff).
BUT most importantly, take time to do nothing. Sit quietly. Clear your mind. Doing this daily makes a huuuuge difference!

Zakir Hemraj said...

Great suggestions Derek! I hope all is well.

fnthawar said...

Delete/consolidate queues aggresively....
* I got rid of my PVR
* my voicemail message says "Don't leave me a message, email/txt me instead".. better yet, cancel voicemail

Remove queue sources
* I unsubscribe from blogs
* I unfollow people on Twitter
* don't use favourites in Twitter
* don't use Starred items in Google reader
* Unsubscribe from magazines

Use non-queing resources
* I use www.techmeme.com for news, it doesn't queue
* watch TV w/o PVR

Limit queues
* Google reader automatically only shows you the last 30 days of a feed
* Subscribe to aggregators, for example InfoQ is probably the best resource on Agile... don't subscribe to others

Timeboxing
* I like Derek's suggestion of only browsing once/twice per day. If you limit to 30 minutes each time, you have no choice but to only look at the high quality content

Good luck!

A said...

I have a problem of letting queues build up as well. I find the suggestions in your post and from your commenters valuable.

I don't have any other suggestions except to maybe more picky about what you choose to read/listen/watch etc. I know I definitely should be!

Zaid Rasid said...

I only worry about my work email Inbox and I make sure that it stays at empty. I tried keeping my personal email empty but it fills up way faster with junk. So I keep 99 emails in my personal email unread because it reminds me of the Jay-Z song 99 problems.

I don't limit checking email, or my reader as I am too curious and I like it when I get new emails. For the most part I just deal with the excess. And in Google Reader if I've had enough of it, I just mark all as read.

As to how to manage it all, I just don't worry about it and live how I've always lived.

Now why you don't read newspapers is rather interesting?

Derek said...

Zaid has an interesting point about newspapers. They ARE aggregators.

Is there a business model for a site that pretends to be a newspaper?

"All the most popular I.T. & World News items of the week, published at 5pm every Friday"

You could ignore the news all week, and just read that one site over the weekend (just like Beaver Cleaver's dad used to read his newspaper)

What I *really* need to do is stop bookmarking things. It creates so much mental clutter, and really, it's always on Google if I need it. I have a lingering pre-Google packrat mentality.

I also like Farhan's suggestions.

My PVR is gone, too. I download whatever I want to watch, and watch it at my convenience.

I read news.ycombinator.com - which dosn't have a search, so once it's off the front page, it's pretty much gone.

I didn't have voicemail for years, becuase I didn't answer it. When I got my iPhone I thought visual voicemail would change that, but it hasn't. I *should* change my message to "i'm not going to listen to this, please email or text me"

Anonymous said...

i very much enjoy your posting type, very interesting.
don't quit and keep penning mainly because it just simply that is worth to read it.
excited to find out more of your own well written articles, stunning day :)

Derek Martin said...

Anonymous - I couldn't have said it better myself :)

Anonymous said...

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