Digital Overload: Remaining Sane While Tiptoeing Through the Digital Universe

June 1, 2009
I'm in the communications business. No surprise there; but in addition to this magazine, I wear many other hats, each which requires a seemingly increasing

I'm in the communications business. No surprise there; but in addition to this magazine, I wear many other hats, each which requires a seemingly increasing demand on my time. And most of that time seems linked to the digital world.

At the core of my duties, I create, share, manage, exchange or distribute information. And as I participate in these activities, the increasing flow of information seems overwhelming at times. Like you, I want to be knowledgeable about the industries and areas for which I'm responsible. I also want to be extremely well-informed so that I can honestly wear the hat of an expert.

Now, the burgeoning presence of social media and the array of choices are staggering. As I prepared for a presentation about social media at the International Book Publishers Association, I uncovered a terrific site ( It lists social media websites by category. The last time I checked, there were hundreds of sites.

The flow of information is inordinately helpful at times. But the speed and endless supply of information leave me feeling emotionally and intellectually exhausted at times. More importantly, managing all this information seems to actually distract me from doing a better job or earning more money.

A dilemma indeed. So I cast my usual net to experts and asked what tips they had to offer. I had many interesting, often similar tips. I'll share a few here, and you can read the rest by visiting our website.

Let me start by offering one suggestion I didn't get. If you don't set aside at least one-half of a day for something we'll call Technology Day, you will never implement many of these tips for handling the information flood. Some require a behavior change, which is a matter of sitting down, thinking about it and then committing to doing things differently. Those that require a change in your system also mean that you MUST make a list of tips you want to implement, have someone with the requisite knowledge nearby (if you need them) and stop everything else until you make the changes needed. You also might want to visit the Information Overload Research Group at for ongoing tips.

  • Separating our inbox from our to-do list. If you leave e-mail in your inbox as a reminder for what you have to complete, it's easy to become overwhelmed by your task list and to overlook the truly important. Instead, look at each message once and then do something with it. In particular, items that need to turn into tasks should either be moved to a task list or placed in a folder for that explicit purpose.

  • Don't take in any new information for at least one three-hour period every day. Give yourself a time void of phone, e-mail, RSS or meetings, thus focusing on a single task. There's always an “off button” for devices or restraining from clicking one more link.

  • Jump into and out of the stream. If you have to use social media or surf, give yourself specific times to do so. It's tempting to spend all day there, and there's certainly enough, seemingly compelling information; but restrain yourself and stick to specific times.
    Jared Goralnick, Founder, AwayFind,, [email protected]; Member, Information Overload Research Group

  • When joining discussion groups, such as those on LinkedIn, be sure to sign up for a weekly digest. You will receive an e-mail digest of discussion headlines. Since it is only once a week, scanning the headlines makes it easy to access only discussions of interest.
    Connie Malamed, Owner of Connie Malamed Consulting, Online learning and presentations, [email protected]

  • Get a virtual assistant to help with multiple e-mail accounts. For example, I respond to my main e-mail account, while the VA handles all others. Use a plug-in, such as Xobni (, for MS Outlook, and use folders to manage client/project e-mails. Empty inbox on a weekly basis. Check e-mail only twice a day.

  • Skim rather than read information relevant to you, your business, industry, etc.

  • Schedule two times a week to read blogs, online articles, etc., at one sitting (versus constantly throughout the day).
    Dianna Huff, DH Communications, Inc., Blog:, Twitter: @diannahuff

To read more tips, visit and click on the editor's column.

HVACR Distribution Business welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to: Tom Peric', Editor 2040 Fairfax Avenue Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 856/874-0049 or e-mail [email protected].