Monday, July 28, 2008

30. Information Overload

Email, Instant Messaging, RSS feeds and blogs - the number of ways that you can be overloaded with information is getting larger by the minute, it seems. These days, it seems like everyone is starting to drown in the ever-growing river of stuff that is coming at us every day. How do you cope with all of the information that is now at your fingertips? I've compiled some suggestions for combating information overload here that might help - but there are a lot of resources if the tips I'm suggesting won't work for you. Check the resources section at the bottom for links to more tips, tricks and techniques to help calm the raging river of information and to help keep you afloat!

  • Create a routine - a ritual you follow every day (check email, check feed reader, view FriendFeed timeline, etc.) will help you keep from feeling like you don't know where to begin. Everyone's "ritual" might be different - but pick one that you can live with and stick to it. No more wondering where to start - now you know! (RWW)
  • Turn off distractions - turn off the email notification window on Outlook, close out of your IM window, shut down your friendfeed tab in your browser for a while and concentrate on ONE THING. (RWW)
  • Learn to embrace distractions - while this seems like a contradiction to the point above, it is something that - once you learn to add in some distractions and live with them - can be helpful. There is a post called "Continuous Parallel Attention" that explains more about this concept if you are interested. (RWW)
  • Create your own filters - use the filters in your email program, use folders wisely in your feed reader and "filter" your time spent in Twitter or Friendfeed (or your favorite distraction on the web) yourself - set your own limits and stick to them! (RWW)
  • Get summaries - I attended a program at ACURIL this summer where the presenter said that he doesn't use feed readers or watch TV, anything that he needs to know will come to him via his friends and family. Find services, such as getAbstract, that will summarize the books you want to read, but don't have time to actually consume. Use services like AideRSS to find the best posts from your favorite blogs. You don't have to read every word of every post written to get the information! (CPU)
  • Pay attention to what you need and unsubscribe from any mailing lists, blogs, friends on social networks or other sources of information that you don't really read, but have hanging around making you feel guilty for not paying attention to them. (CPU)
  • Be realistic about what you can actually consume and don't subscribe to everything that looks interesting. (CPU)
All of these tips are meant to help you pare down your information sources and shut down the constant flow of data that needs to be processed. Check the references for more information on the concept of information overload and for more tips to help you out!

More Information
Contrarian opinion

Monday, July 21, 2008

29. Personalized start pages

There are a lot of ways you can create your personalize start page on the web. We're going to talk about why you'd want to and 3 services that make it easy. Creating a personalize start page puts all the information you're interested in on one page, right one you log in, no more clicking on favorites or checking 5 different sites to see what happening. You can do it from one site! All you need to do is find a widget for the content you want to display and add it to the page.

First up, iGoogle, from Google, of course. You need it your Google ID & password. Some things to note - you can create multiple tabs to display different groups of content, you can choose a different theme for each tab.

Next NetVibes, again you can create multiple tabs, choose a custom color theme, although the same theme will apply to all your tabs.

Last but not least, My Yahoo, you can use the same Yahoo Id you use for your email for Flickr to sign in an create the page. You can create multiple tabs to display different groups of content, you can choose a different theme for each tab.

They all work a bit differently and have different widgets. It really comes down to which one you prefer to use. Once you get it set up though, it can be a great time saver and information management tool.

Monday, July 14, 2008

28. Social Task Lists

Do you find yourself having trouble remembering things? Maybe you have a friend, family member or co-worker that could use some help in the remembering department. If either of those are true, you might want to try out one of the many "social task lists" that are out there. The differences between traditional task list programs or sites and a "social" site is that these Web 2.0 versions of task management are easily sharable and easily updateable through non-traditional means (Jott, Twitter, etc.). There are a lot of entries into this field, but I'm going to focus on three of them briefly and one in great detail!
The first two
social task lists that I'll mention are Gubb and ClockingIT. These are both free and available via the web - meaning any computer you are at, work or home, can access your lists. Gubb has a really nice SMS feature that lets you both request lists to be sent to your text-capable phone or add items to lists on your phone. Each list has a unique email address that you can use to text commands or additions to the list from wherever you happen to be. ClockingIT is a more full-featured product - almost a project management system in itself. It provides a LOT of structure for your lists and a lot of extra functionality beyond just lists (such as time tracking and project management-style charts), but you can turn off anything in the interface that you don't need to keep it simple, if you prefer.
The task list tha
t I use is Remember The Milk, a great name for a simple task manager! RTM, as it is commonly known, offers simple list creation and management, a very powerful search function (including creating lists that are results of saved searches - something I use frequently) and a lot of "extra" information for each item on your list. RTM supports tagging and notes for each item, as well as basing items on location. If you use it for both work and home lists, you can separate them out by location and use the saved search feature to create smart lists that just list the items that need to be done where you are - home or work - so you won't see anything that will just distract you!
The social part comes with the ability to create contacts in RTM and send them items from your lists. You and your significant other can create "honey-do" lists that automatically recieve anything sent from that person - handy for busy folks who might not see notes left on the kitchen table! RTM also comes with a Firefox extension for Gmail that allows you to completely integrate your task lists in with your email (something I've been wishing for in Gmail for a while). Installing this extension into your Firefox browser gives you the ability to easily add emailed information and items to your various lists and allows you to access your RTM information without needing to open a new tab (or window). Also, RTM allows you to share your data with third parties, such as Jott or Twitter, and either set or retrieve tasks via those communication channels. This means that setting a new task is as easy as calling Jott, saying RTM (or whatever nickname you give it) and telling Jott what your task is. It will be in your RTM inbox when you next log in! Pretty slick....
Each of these list managers has features and quirks that some will love, some will hate. Try them out, see which one fits you best and then see if the one you choose helps you get more organized! Check out the resources list below for links to the three lists I mentioned, as well as some information about a personal productivity method that is VERY popular with geeks (but don't let that scare you off!!) and some information about setting up a RTM account in accordance with the GTD principles. Have fun, make lists, share them with your friends and become more organized as you play with these Web 2.0 tools!


Monday, July 7, 2008

27. This One Next

Today we'll look at another Reader's Advisory tool called This One Next. You can enter a book, a cd or a dvd and it will suggeset items you might like.
You can start with just a title and it will try to guess which one you mean

You'll get a list of suggestions with a link to see even more
You can enter an email address to get even more customized results