Heading towards information overload
At the time of that post, I was also automatically monitoring over 100 industry news sites, blogs and related portals, filtering data from an additional 300 related RSS feeds, and using other tools like Google Alerts and Yahoo! Pipes to search, sort and cull data from thousands of other sources. A true child of the information age, I was addicted to data, and the potential I thought it held. As new sources of data (like Twitter) came online, I eagerly brought them into the fold. Unfortunately, even with all the neat little tricks and programs I was using to manage the information, simply wading through all of it was starting to eat up a lot of time.
Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr
Bringing down the axe
I decided to pare down my list, starting with those sources that had never produced any thought-provoking news, analysis or insight. That turned out to eliminate over two-thirds of the sources I was following. Over the next few weeks, I continued the culling until I wound up with a mere half-dozen industry sites, a single, elaborately-filtered Twitter feed, and one Google Alerts email. And while there might be some important news items that I'm missing, the extra hour or so of time per day that I've recovered more than makes up for that risk.
This exercise also made me think long and hard about how I make decisions. I'm definitely an over-thinker: I like looking over a lot of data when faced with a tough choice. In reality, though, most of the decisions I've taken that approach with haven't gone at all as expected. Some were better, some were worse, but vanishingly few took the form that all my data-driven analysis suggested they would. That tells me that I'm probably just not very good at applying the facts to the decision at hand. Or perhaps the facts that I typically have access to just aren't that helpful, since it's awfully tough to predict the future. Regardless, all else being equal, I'm probably better off making a quicker decision based on the information at hand, so I can spend more time on work that's likely to be productive, and less time digging up data for what-if scenarios.
The bottom line: different companies might have different products, resources and abilities, but we're all limited to a 24 hour day. That makes time the most precious and limited resource for large and small companies alike -- and that is something I know how to capitalize on.
Have you ever taken action based on something you heard about from an industry news source? Leave a comment and let us know!