It’s no wonder. There are literally over a hundred million active websites. To be more precise, according the October 2013 Netcraft Web Server Survey (which is designed to count websites) there are 767,234,152 websites.
That’s a lot of information. Odds are that you’ve only personally encountered a fraction of those websites. And even that fraction can seem like too much.
If you add in all of the sharing that happens on social media sites, the thousands of blogs and news channels that are updated nearly every single day, and all of the images that are uploaded–the amount of information we are constantly bombarded with is staggering.
The web has become a noisy, noisy place. There’s no way any one freelancer can absorb it all. And they shouldn’t have to.
In this post, I describe five effective techniques that freelance web designers and others can use to manage information overload. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like How to Find and Use the Information You Really Need.
Technique #1. Specialize
You may have heard that specialization is good for your freelancing web design business because it enables you to charge higher rates. While that is true, specialization is also a good way to manage information overload.
As a freelance web design generalist, what you must keep up with is a lot broader. You’ll find yourself doing a lot more reading. You may feel like you need to know a little bit about everything–and truthfully, it’s getting harder and harder to stay knowledgeable on a wide range of topics.
As a freelance web design specialist, however, you can narrow down what you need to keep up with. While you’ll want to be aware of general web design trends, you can safely focus most of your energy on staying up to date in your specialty. Suddenly, your reading list is a lot shorter and more manageable.
Do you see how specialization helps you manage information?
Technique #2. Know Where the Information Is, Not What It Is
Another information management technique involves familiarizing yourself with good resources. You don’t have to read and know everything, you just need to know where to find good information when you need it.
If you maintain a well-organized list of good resources, then you can easily find what you need to know when you need to know it. Apps can help you with this. Here’s a short list of some tools to help you organize your reading:
- Diigo. This social media bookmarking site allows you to bookmark, tag and list web pages. It has the added advantage of being a social sharing site. There’s a free version and a premium version.
- Evernote Web Clipper. Evernote is well-known as a list-making app. Not everyone realizes that they also make a plug-in for most browsers to help save online information.
- Pocket. This app allows you to save articles and web pages so that you can read them later. It’s especially useful because information saved on Pocket can be viewed offline on a number of devices.
- Readability. Readability lets you save articles, posts, and online information so that you can read it later. The free app has the added benefit of providing a clutter-free view.
Plus, remember that many browsers (such as Firefox) include a bookmarks feature. Learn how to use your web browser’s bookmark feature and then use it.
Organizing information so that you can access it when you need it is a logical and timesaving approach to having too much information.
Technique #3. Prioritize and Limit Your Time
To get the most of the information available to you, you should set goals. As with anything else, if you don’t set goals, you won’t meet them.
To set an information goal ask yourself–what information do I really need or really want to know?
Then, prioritize your reading time around your goals. Minimize the amount of time you spend studying blog posts, articles, and information about other topics.
This technique works well when you also limit your daily reading time. Limiting your reading time keeps you focused on your reading goals. It also ensures that you will have time left to devote to your other tasks.
Without a limit, it’s easy to spend an entire morning or even an entire day browsing the Internet. As a freelancer, you should probably devote no more than an hour each day to studying new information.
Setting priorities and limits works well to combat information overload, but it’s not the only way.
Technique #4. Trust Your Network
Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t just follow/friend/circle everyone I run across on social media. Instead, I focus on connecting with those individuals who add something to my network. I avoid those who seem willing to waste my time.
One result of being picky about my connections is that I don’t have thousands and thousands of connections. However, the other result is that I am connected with a mostly excellent group of prospects, clients, and colleagues who consistently share high quality information.
If you’ve been careful about your social media connections, you can trust your network to guide you to some pretty high quality content.
Since I have high quality information shared with me regularly, I am able to turn around and share high quality information with others. My connections are one reason why I frequently receive compliments on the high quality of my social media shares.
Don’t waste your time on useless social media shares.
Technique #5. Schedule an Internet-Free Day
Relax. You actually don’t have to keep up with as much as you think you do.
Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to deal with information overload is to ignore it on a regular basis.
Many freelancers and others make it a practice to spend one day a week (usually a weekend day) away from the Internet, television, and other information sources.
Taking a day off gives you a break from all that information that is threatening to overwhelm you. It is also a great, life-enriching practice that gives you time to devote to relationships, hobbies, and other interests.
In the end, spending an Internet-free day won’t have as much impact on your business as you might expect. The Internet, with all of its thousands of blog posts and articles, will still be there when you get back.
How do you handle information overload? Share your best tips in the comments below.