Internet information overload starts the New Year

Welcome to 2009; never before have you been on the receiving end of so much information. There are more web pages than you could read in your entire life, assuming you lived to 100. More books are published now than ever – and there are more printed magazines and newspapers than at any time in history.

People are sitting at their PCs sending emails until the early hours, then getting up early to catch the morning news, the top blogs and the latest at social networking sites before heading off to work.

And now that we are in recession you can’t move for emails providing you with information on how to cope with the downturn, how to ensure you keep your customers or how to use the Internet to beat the economic system. The year is not yet a week old and we are already overflowing in information.

So, what can you do about it? If you ignore it all, you’ll become stressed because you will worry you are missing out. If you try to keep up with all the information coming your way you will doubtless become ill through lack of sleep, constantly sitting at your PC and worrying about all the work you don’t have time to do.

There appears to be no way out. Unless of course your name is Carl Jung. He was a Swiss psychologist who came up with the concept of “analytical psychology“. Although much derided these days, there were some elements of what he said that made sense.

For a start, his parable of The Rainmaker makes much sense. Essentially it’s the story of a man who visits a village that is suffering a drought. A few days after his visit, it rains and snows. The villagers are amazed at his “powers”. He reveals, of course, he has no special powers at all – he just calmly waited safe in the knowledge that it would rain at some stage.

So, if you feel the Internet is throwing stuff at you mercilessly, take a tip from The Rainmaker. Just be patient – wait a while; do less. While everyone else is running around like headless chickens, those who take a breather, ignore much of the advice about “recession busting” and just get on with things are those most likely to do well.

Here, then, is a plan to help you cope with all the excess information you get – Rainmaker style.

Firstly, make sure you have folders in your email system that are labelled “Action”, “Reading Matter”, “Maybe”. Set up filters to send all newsletters, RSS feeds and other mailing list materials to the “Reading Matter” folder; make sure your filter also marks the items as “read” before filing. This will avoid you seeing a solid black number of unread items.

As other emails come in, file them either under “Action” – to do once a day when you handle your messages. Or put them in the “Maybe” folder, again marking them as “read”.

What this does is make all the chatter and excess information invisible to you. It doesn’t sit there in your inbox shouting “read me” at you all day. You only have to deal with the “Action” items.

So what about all that web stuff? You need a similar filing system that will let you, Jungian Rainmaker style, to wait before you deal with it. The best one I’ve found is called “Netvibes“. It allows you to import all your feeds, even email accounts, press releases – any type of information you collect via the web and categorise it into special pages (or tabs). You can even make “public pages” for other people to add to their Netvibes page. If you want to add mine, you can get it at this Netvibes link.

The result of using Netvibes is that all your web information is collected and sorted for you – and if you use the tabs wisely you can set up a system that allows you, like The Rainmaker, to wait a while before you actually deal with something.

The key to coping with all the extra information that is coming your way is organisation so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. The combination of a proper email filing policy and Netvibes will ensure you cope.

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