Delete It – Tips for Managing Information Overload
We’re deep into the beginning of the Information Age, as you can see from the propagation of information aggregators like Google Reader and the meta-aggregators like Friend Feed. There’s only one tip for handling information saturation that has any success: delete it.
You Aren’t Going to Need It applies equally well to digital information as the clutter in your house. When I was a young whelp I spent all my money at the comic book store, diligently bagging collector’s items I didn’t even enjoy reading. They’re still holed up in my parents’ house somewhere, and no, having that meticulously maintained collection didn’t improve my life in any way. It just sucked up my time.
The same thing holds true of your digital information. Delete it.
- Blurry photos? If it isn’t worth printing then it isn’t worth keeping.
- 5 photos with slightly different angles? Pick the one where you look best and get rid of the rest.
- That song you always skip on your favorite album? If you delete it, then you don’t have to press skip anymore.
- Why have friends on Last.FM who don’t have similar music tastes?
- That movie you downloaded, watched and didn’t like? Don’t keep anything you don’t want to re-experience.
- Old software you don’t use anymore? Uninstall it.
- Those feeds in your RSS reader you always jump past? Nuke them.
- That friend on Twitter who only uses it to display their blog posts? Unsubscribe.
My obsessive compulsive need to collect and keep information takes up too much time. If you have less information to manage it takes less time to manage it, not to mention fringe benefits like it’s easier to backup and keep track of. Having less of an information burden makes it easier to integrate new information into your life (more hard drive space for photos/music/movies, more time in your daily info gathering to read new sources).
Here’s some quick tips for different aspects of your digital life:
- Filter your photos before you organize them.
- If it’s too blurry to print, it’s too blurry to keep.
- Try to pick the best shot out of groups of similar photos.
- Having less photos makes it easier to backup and easier to select which photos to print.
- Just because you bought a CD/MP3 doesn’t mean you have to keep it if you don’t like it.
- Use play counts and ratings to cull your music list from the stuff that sucks.
- It’s more useful to only keep the two songs you like from that album, than it is to have a complete discography for that artist.
- If you haven’t listened to it in the past year, then why keep it?
- If you aren’t using it then it’s wasting space on your hard drive.
- Software often installs services that run in the background even though you aren’t using it — uninstalling software can make your computer run faster by freeing up memory.
- If you don’t know what the software does, check Google before uninstalling it.
- Unsubscribe from automated emails you don’t read like newsletters and notifications.
- Switch to Gmail because having super-fast search is much more efficient than moving emails to folders.
- Using Gmail means you have less information to back-up and you don’t run the risk of your email program coming to a standstill if it has too many emails.
- Delete emails you aren’t going to want to re-experience. They’ll be in the trash for 30 days if you change your mind.
- Use filters and labels to track emails that aren’t urgent.
- More tips here and here.
- Learn the keyboard shortcuts. J, K, S, Shift-S, V, U, ?.
- The first time you read an item: star it if you want to revisit it later (S), share it if you want to push it out to another service (Shift-S). Stay in Google Reader unless you’re leaving a comment (V).
- Unsubscribe from any feeds that you don’t want to pay full attention to. Use other partial attention sites to let information find you.
- Just because they’re your friend in real life (or virtual life) doesn’t mean they have to be your friend on Last.FM.
- If you keep your friends down to people who have similar musical tastes, your “friend radio” becomes much more useful.
- The strength of Twitter is that it is a mesh network of people who find each other interesting.
- The other strength of Twitter is that it is information you can miss. Twitter is for partial attention.
- Unfollow people who you don’t have two-way communication with, especially if they’re too prolific.
- Subscribe to your @replies feed using another service so you don’t miss people communicating with you. (I use Netvibes)
- Block people who are spamming your @replies.
- People don’t get a message when you unsubscribe to them on Facebook — use that fact to get rid off all the people who aren’t really a part of your life.
- Facebook application spam is the devil.
- Friend Feed is all about continuous partial attention. It will be a killer app once they tune their information filtering better so that you don’t see the same information repeated again and again.
- Friend Feed lets you follow a person, but ignore parts of their information stream. This is great when you’re interested in their blog posts, but couldn’t care less about their music tastes.
- When you’re publishing your feed, don’t cross the streams. If you lifestream on Tumblr then don’t include Tumblr in your stream.
- These Firefox scripts can help you manage your Friend Feed river of information:
- Remove any link that you’ve already looked at.
- Friend Feed makes a darned good Twitter client because it is easier to reply than it is on Twitter.
- You can toggle services on/off (only Twitter, everything but Twitter, etc).
- Make it easier to unsubscribe and easier to see who someone is.
- Show the domain name for links so you can see what it is without having to hover your mouse.
- Create groups of friends and have a quick drop down list to go to the page of any friend.
- Save things to read later.
- Save searches that you want to revisit.
Photo by deapeajay
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