Keep in the know without going barmy

You want the information and you want it now. Welcome to modern living. But beware data overload.

You want the information and you want it now. Welcome to modern living. But beware data overload.

Many people refer to the present time as The Information Age. It is no wonder we fail to take it all in as there is so much of it. Yet we are still hungry to learn more from the burgeoning number of Web news services and digital news channels. Also increasing is the incidence of Web-surfing and business book sales.

However, the last category carries a revealing statistic. Despite the volume purchased, only 7% of them are read past the first chapter.

We want to know what the author has to say in a moment, but we do not have time to read the whole book. We want the message and what it means for us, and we want it now.

As information technology has played its part in speeding our business and personal lives, so it has conditioned us to want to know ever more.

Thus ensues a downward spiral that tells us we have to be aware of so much, or we will not be successful.

The big question is, how can we ensure we keep abreast of all we have to know while avoiding stress and overload, and without going completely mad?

Here are some answers, most of them drawn from personal experience.

  • Only know what you have to know, while ensuring you have people on your team who know the rest, or at least know where to find the rest.

  • Read a paper you enjoy. You will have your finger more firmly on the pulse of the UK by reading The Sun or Daily Mail than the Financial Times, for example.

  • Subscribe to only one e-mail news service that delivers every day.

  • Never print out e-mails - file them online.

  • Cut down on reports, minutes and documents in general.

  • Have a clear desk, even if it means keeping the piles in your drawer instead.

  • Skim-read magazines, and only keep the relevant articles.

  • Rely more on your brain and memory. We use about 2% of our capacity, and it can be enhanced by relaxation, by specific techniques, and simply by trusting and going ahead and using it.

    There is a thin line between excess, overload and stress. Only you can decide what is important to you in your life and in your business. But do not rely on a business book to preach the negative consequences of overload and stress - it may be in the second chapter.

    David Taylor's Inside Track, a provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is out now. The book is the latest in the Computer Weekly Professional series, published by Butterworth Heinemann: 01865-888180

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