I have to admit – I love information. I devour books, magazines, blog posts, web sites, podcasts. But once in awhile I realize I have the information, but I’m not doing anything with it. All that unused information starts to suffocate and guilt me.
I know how to do things better, but I don’t implement any changes. I don’t try the suggestions out. The information has become Brain Clutter.
To prevent Brain Clutter, you need to control how much and what kind of information you bring into your life. And you need to have a process for using the information you get.
Here are some ideas I use to control the flow of information:
- Don’t buy any more books if you have a stack of over 10 books to read – I put books I want to read on my Amazon Wish List.
- Use an RSS feed reader like Feedly if you read many blogs. Use the list view to see the headlines, swoop through them reading only the posts that look interesting and mark all as read when done.
- Delete a feed every time you get a new feed.
- Limit your time reading feeds to either 15 minutes or 10 articles.
- Tear out magazine articles and put them in binders or file folders by topic. When you need something on that topic, the information is there. Throw out magazines over two months old.
- Unsubscribe to magazines which you don’t read, use or make you feel guilty.
- Get off mailing lists: http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/GetOffMailingLists.htm
- Limit your time web surfing to 15-30 minutes at a time.
- Sign up at one or two news sites to have the news delivered by email or RSS feed once a day. Watching the news is a time hog.
- Read 2-3 books, 5 websites and 5 blogs on the same topic to get deeper into the material. Reading a lot about one subject can make more of a difference to you than a flurry of random facts or ideas.
- Decide your goals and what you want to learn about – then decide what to read, watch and intake. Blockade as much useless information as possible.
Here is how I go from consuming information like chocolate to doing something with the information:
- Take notes on books, blog posts, magazines and web sites in notebooks. I have an index at the beginning of my notebook so I can find what I want.
- If I know I am going to keep the book or article I highlight, underline, question and mark up my pages.
- Asterik action items.
- Keep a file folder with articles, etc. you are thinking about using. I call mine ‘Implement.’
- Glance through your folder weekly during your weekly planning to see if there is anything you want to try this week. Look especially for ideas that are helpful to your current goals or situations.
- Write down the actions in your calendar or put them into your daily routine.
- My friend Marcia reads one ebook a week to glean and action the information.
- Keep a computer folder for things to read (ebooks, newsletters, articles you found online) and a folder for things to listen to (teleclasses, Mp3 downloads, etc.).
- Set aside time weekly or monthly to go through one of the folders. If it’s useful information you can move it to an implement computer folder with actions highlighted in some way. You can look at the implement folder every couple of weeks for things to put in your planner.
- If this to read folder is huge – quick buying and downloading for a bit.
- Re-read your notebooks – see if you can find any information you want to try.
- I like to look at what I was reading a year ago to see if anything is different in the way I live now.
- Play with an idea to see if it works for you. If not, go ahead and dump the idea. No need to hang onto it.
- If you like the idea and it is working for you, practice it until it becomes a habit. (You can use my habit checklist in my free New Habits course.)
- I know some people who see an idea, grab it, and do it right away. I like to mull things over more, but I love to watch these action oriented people.
- If you are more action oriented, when you read or listen to information feel free to take action immediately or write the action in your planner rather than do any of the intermediate steps.
I can see from my information overwhelm this week, that I need to stop much of the glut of information I deliberately consume. It’s time to slow down, re-read, digest and do something new, instead of reading something new.