Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Dealing with Information Overload

For whatever reason I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about how I handle the massive amount of information online. The problem so many people run into is that there is so much out there they find themselves overwhelmed, a situation that’s been dubbed information overload. Often people respond to this by shutting down and not reading anything, or choosing a few sites to read a day.

I, on the other hand, have taken the opposite approach. I have over 300 feeds now coming into my RSS reader and I don’t find it overwhelming at all. I would actually guess that myy feed number grows about 15 a month. So how do I handle it?

Well, for me it’s all about accepting the fact that I can’t read everything. It’s impossible. There’s just too much information out there for me to possibly wade through it all. So what I’ve done is create a list of trusted media outlets (NYTimes, WaPo, Guardian, etc.) and a lot of blogs, del.icio.us feeds, etc. that aggregate other information for me. I am trusting these secondary sources (blogs, etc.) to provide me with what I’ve missed from my mainstream sources (as well as what the mainstream media has missed, additional commentary and other goodies). I truly believe that if something is that important to read, it’s going to get to me somehow. Essentially I’ve embraced the overload. I say BRING IT ON! Why not?

When things get bad and I do feel overwhelmed you know what I do? I don’t read it. I’ll have 15 tabs open in Firefox with stuff I’ve been meaning to read for two weeks (all saved by Session Saver) and I’ll just get rid of them all. If I missed something I deal with it. I can’t get caught up in the past, there’s too much out there. I often find that I’ll even end up coming back to one of these articles later via a link from someone else.

In a Lifehacker interview, Danny O’Brien, the so-called “father of lifehacks” explained it this way:

One way of dealing with all this “stuff� is to realise its unimportance. For every person I found talking about how to deal with their million-item todo list, there was someone else who said “I just delete everything every few months�, or “Top tip: get off the internet and go down the pub�.

So just remember, it’s not you AGAINST the information, it’s out there for you to use. Embrace it.

April 20, 2005