We’re all connected to a vast sea of information, so very, very, connected to: twitter, email, news and social networking web sites, blogs, online trading systems, discussion boards, corporate portals…
With all this information at our fingertips it begs the question:
are we getting smarter with all this data or just bogged down?
Here are a few strategies to master information overload so you can actually use what you have.
A Single Point of Access That Leverages Relationships
To overcome information overload, a single point of access for all information is essential. Just creating a Brain of all your key resources whether that’s public web sites or your company’s internal network, will save you time. This is where the planning comes in. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when creating your overarching view of information: What are your key projects, what URLs and web sites do you launch? What files and documents will you need to access frequently?
Thinking and mapping this out in advance will save you and your team a lot of stress and time in the future when you are: up against project deadlines, have customers waiting on the phone, or encounter any situation where you are in a hurry to find the right information.
Organic Knowledge Hubs
If an overarching map of all data seems too daunting, create a variety of knowledge hubs, smaller information networks for your key projects and frequent tasks. Start with the projects that keep you up at night or the department mandates that amass folder upon folder of information.
The idea here is to create multiple contexts or workflows for the information that you need. You can start below your home or root Thought and create Thoughts for all your key projects. Then drag and drop all relevant URLs and documents you need to access. This way when you activate your project all relevant resources are immediately there. This also gives you the freedom to amass more data because you can instantly activate your project or idea and access all related information.
This Brain also puts you in the driver seat because rather than getting snowballed by massive amounts of information, you now have Thoughts to file your information under. In fact, now that your information has a place and context, you can file it away confidently knowing that it will appear when you are back in that context. This will enable you to set your own time and pace for getting to things rather than feeling the need to have to read and review every new, interesting web site or file immediately before it gets lost in the shuffle.
By controlling when you look at information you can optimize your day and schedule tasks actively based on your needs rather than passively responding to a never-ending data deluge. Useful Thoughts for putting things away and minimizing daily info distraction are “Interesting Articles to Read”, “Future Projects”, “Cool Ideas”, “New Trends”, “Health News”, “Around Town”. Basically, you need to create Thoughts for any category of information in your life and work that tends to distract you. This way when you have time, after 5 pm or on the weekend, you can get back to these articles without impeding your productivity.
Creating Thoughts for key areas of interest and responsibility help you stay on top of all information resources
A Network of Information That’s More Than Search
Essentially, the issue of information overload can be squashed by proactive organization, having a plan and natural structure for your information rather than reactively searching for that document when the need arises and/or reading every interesting web page or email when you see it. In fact, this passivity and lack of organization leads not only to messy desktops and folders but to an overreliance on search. In depth searching for files breaks your flow of concentration and requires you to now focus on information retrieval rather than your project.
Now search is great if you know exactly what you are looking for. However, it is essentially a black box. You can tell it to look for things and that’s about it. This leaves you and your user community with little to no recourse for additional information if search results are too limited. This is especially a problem when you need to go back in time to a project that you might have forgotten about. This problem is further amplified on your shared company drive or portal site where users and especially new employees are largely unfamiliar with the content and may not even know what keywords to enter into the search box.
Text-based interfaces, such as portals, directories, and search results themselves, present another problem. They display information simply as lists. If the interface to your knowledgebase is not visual, you cannot see what additional information is available unless it includes your search term. Therefore you must resort to continued searching, which requires prior knowledge of what to search for, of course… This dart board approach is ad-hoc at best and makes you feel like you must remember where every single document is on your company network and hard drive.
Information Architecture and Visualization Combined with Search
Visualization tools like TheBrain and BrainEKP address this problem by presenting a context-rich interface that engages you and presents all relevant information about a topic.
The goal of your Brain is to give you a complete picture of all ideas and issues that can be quickly explored. You still have a powerful search that works across multiple information sets but these results are augmented with the visual display to present related items so you can discover key issues that would otherwise never be seen.
TheBrain’s search synchronizes with a visual display of interconnected Thoughts for maximum context.
This way your ideas remain your central focus. Instead of losing concentration in a list of search results, you gain a broader picture of your concepts and ideas. Moreover, the visual display is created by your ideas, connections and projects, so the display of information has a very significant context and deeper meaning to you. It can become your visual briefing for the day or even help other users of published Brains understand key business processes.
Digital Minds Supersede Digital Boxes
One of the advantages of your digital Brain is that it allows you to forget. The stress of information overload comes from the anxiety of thinking there’s all this stuff you need to remember. In reality, however, you should only need what’s important to what you’re currently doing. If you can put stuff into its proper context and then return to that context later, at anytime, all that stress can be erased. You can allow your mind to focus on what is truly important. That’s why having a solution that scales to the amount of data you accumulate over time is critical.
With TheBrain there’s no limit to the number of Thoughts or connections you can make. You can also link any file to anything else so you don’t have to fret over what folder things need to go into. Your Brain can capture multiple perspectives. You can create large networks of information that match your style of thought and timeframe, finally putting you in control of the flow and deluge of information, instead of it controlling you.