Information overload getting you down? These readers learned to control the flow and dumped the pileup guilt.
There are more than 18,000 magazines in the United States. ¶ About 195,000 new books were published last year. ¶ Nearly 12 billion e-mails are sent every day in the U.S. alone. ¶ And the number of websites and blogs just waiting for you to give them a bit of attention? Let's not even go there. ¶ The information age indeed. At times, it feels more like the overwhelmed-with-information age. Between business must-reads and that hot novel everybody's talking about, catching up on your reading often seems like an impossible task. But it doesn't have to be. "I think it can overwhelm you if you let it," says John Buchanan, president of the hospitality industry's Lettuce Consulting Group. "I think the key is being able to filter what comes to you and not let the weight of it [all] get you down." ¶ We spoke with eight people who have put information-control strategies to work for their work and personal lives. Read on to find out how you can turn that stack of magazines sitting on your night table into action items that will move your business forward.
There are weeks when Cynthia Park is on the road (or in the air) 60 percent of the time. So the executive vice president and managing director of Kang & Lee Advertising, which focuses on the Asian-American market, reads early in the morning and in snatches of time throughout the day.
She rises as early as 5:30 a.m. to start her news-reading ritual in front of her computer or with the occasional hard copy of a newspaper. "I purposely look for information when there's no outside pressure. I really like to tackle it. I want to understand it," she says. "My job calls for that - to be on the ball."
To take advantage of travel time or any unused time waiting for appointments, Park keeps a folder of reading materials with her at all times. When magazines or other periodicals arrive in the mail, she puts them in that folder, so there's no wasted time searching around.
Though Park used to subscribe to several newspapers at her house, she was often faced with a guilt-inducing stack when she got home from a trip. It would "stress me out," she says. She canceled the subscriptions and started reading the papers online. But Park is conscious of how easy it is to get caught up in the constant updating of news stories on the Web. "It's okay if you get the information in 48 or 72 hours," she says. "I'm trying to get the complete story."
Lettuce Consulting Group's John Buchanan didn't need to know about milk shakes the day he saw an article on the ice cream treats in one of eight trade magazines he reads every month. But just in case, he clipped it out and tossed it into his "future" file. A month later, one of his clients wanted to talk about - you guessed it - milk shakes. Buchanan, who says he's "disciplined bordering on anal but not crazy," has a clippings file system that goes several layers deep - from broad catchall files like the future folder to topic-specific files (such as one labeled "dessert") to files for specific projects. "Each individual has to draw the line as to how much organization they need," he says. "Going beyond that would be crazy."
Along with his endless clipping, Buchanan relies on refined Web searches to find information. "If you Google 'milk shakes,' you'll get 50,000 hits," he says. Once his search results come up, Buchanan scans through to see if the information is appropriate. "What I don't do is click on the first 20 and print them all up. It's more than likely that I won't get to them."