Trying to keep up with Google Reader, and watching my inbox fill up faster than I could read, I realized that access to this wealth of information has consumed my soul! Don’t get me wrong, I love information, and lots of it; like when you’re walking in a library through seemingly endless knowledge and ideas. There’s a welcoming solace between the stacks of books I may never get a chance to read. The vastness of information is humbling; knowing that there’s more great ideas than I’ll ever have a chance to experience.
But unlike the library, my inbox, calendar, and growing list of tasks is not something I can easily ignore. It’s not uncommon that we spend an entire day just catching up and reading about the work we are supposed to be doing.
Think about it, how much of your day do you actually work? I don’t mean thinking about or planning your work, but actually doing something with a net result of work being accomplished. How often are you talking and thinking about some new idea versus implementing? Unless your work is incredibly boring and stupid, you probably spend a majority of your time thinking and planning. Thinking about new ideas is incredibly taxing. We often find ourselves overworked without having done any work.
This is the bane of our brave new information world. We have become more reactive and less focused. We bow to our inbox trying desperately to prioritize the enormous list of inquiries, tasks, complaints, and male enhancement spam. I’ve occasionally adopted triage techniques as a way to get through the massive volume of work collecting in my inbox. This is a valid organizational approach to handling an overactive inbox, but “triage” speaks of a crisis: not enough doctors to treat injuries from battle. This is a wartime solution applied to what should be a calming moment in my office.
So what do we do about it? Maybe we throw our computers away and learn to live off the land the way our agrarian ancestors intended?
Since I don’t know how to hunt or gather, at least not well enough to sustain my interest let alone survival, I’m stuck in front of the computer. In order to survive I sit in front of my inbox.
You have either to abandon it completely, or bow down and hope not to be overwhelmed. For survival, we learn new ways to manage, we learn not to assert control but to let it flow. There is an art to managing information, but it comes at a price.
Personally, I’ve become so good at managing information that I can quickly empty my inbox, updating my list of projects and actions, and scheduling appointments and travel. The key is to let the information flow, it is an ocean outside of your control.
Managing information is like surfing. Imagine a surfer trying to force the waves to behave, the surfer would most likely drown. The information in front of you is no different, you are just surfing and hoping not to drown.