How to manage information overload
I get it. Apps for everything. There’s social media SEO, workflow, process management, CRM, bill pay, receipt tracking, expense tracking, and client tracking. We need something to track all of the things you need to track. And, who’s going to track THAT?
I recently did a Friday “Zoom in with Seth David and Friends” on how to track your subscriptions. Because that’s ANOTHER thing, right? We have subscriptions renewing monthly, annually, and maybe some quarterly? So, I gave a demonstration of two different apps that could be used to track this: Airtable and Clickup.
This is what it looks like in Airtable:
Airtable gives you a nice clean way to track your subscriptions, and requires very little set up, but it does require some maintenance – in short, you have to update the next renewal date yourself.
This is what it looks like in Clickup:
Clickup requires much more setup, but you can set your renewal dates on automatic recurrence. That makes this much lower maintenance once the setup is done.
Generally getting organized
The first rule for managing overload is to figure out what is overwhelming you.
The bad news (maybe) is I’ve got some apps for you to use. The good news is, if you’re willing to put in some time upfront, this will save you a lot of time in the long run, and it should bring you some peace of mind.
Airtable is the best tool for sure (my opinion, of course) for getting a handle on all of the things you have to track. But, I wouldn’t start with Airtable.
Start with Dynalist. It’s free and anyone can figure out how to use this thing, even if you’re not a nerd.
Dynalist is bullet points on steroids. You can purge all of the stuff that’s on your mind. Then, you can reorganize and prioritize whatever it is that has you on information overload.
You might even be happy to stick with Dynalist. It’s a pretty amazing tool.
Start by simply listing the “big picture” things that overwhelm you. It might look something like this:
This is what Dynalist looks like. You can easily reorder these, and then create sub-levels to expand on your ideas. That’s what makes this tool so powerful. I can only show you so much in a screenshot. Watch the video to get the full experience.
Dynalist is THE tool for creating outlines. I use it to outline all of my courses and blog posts.
I like Airtable for the next phase because the one thing Airtable is really good at – that no other app is – is linking data.
If you look at the list above, I can give you an app for each of these. Here’s what the next level might look like:
I was able to bang that out in less than five minutes because I already know what I use for what, so it’s not overwhelming. You may need to spend more time, and even consult with someone.
What we are doing here is simple. We’re planning.
Notice for email, I put both Clickup and OneNote. Before you throw your arms up in the air and say, “I can’t handle all of these apps,” you have to understand something very important.
But, first, I need you to say something out loud. And, I want you to say it REALLY loud, so your co-workers will all think you are crazy right now: “YES. I. CAN.”
The important thing here is that I use two apps because there are two (actually 3) things I am going to do with any email when I go to clean my inbox.
I know a lot of you use Boomerang for this. And, if that works for you, great. I am not a fan. I do one of these three things:
- I am going to file (archive) an email because I am done with it. (no app needed).
- The email is a task and I need to follow up on it, which means it goes to ClickUp. ClickUp has a really slick extension for this, which makes this awesome.
- It’s something I more casually want to read or look at later. (OneNote).
The problem with “all of these apps”
Having “all of these apps” at your disposal isn’t overwhelming when you understand the clear purpose of each. I compare it to having a toolbox filled with tools. I don’t get overwhelmed by new tools. I get excited. As in, let me learn what this tool can do so I can see what new thing I can accomplish (or accomplish better) with it.
If you are inclined to use Airtable, then you’ll want to transfer your list from Dynalist to an Airtable base. Airtable can also be used for a lot of the functions outlined in the list, such as CRM/sales pipeline, project banagement, onboarding, and any kind of information that you need to track.
I use Airtable to track each client, their fees, who is working on them, how much THEY get paid, and the “house” share of the revenues. When I am ready to run payroll, I review it each pay period to make sure any new clients are added in. Then, I export it to a csv to create a record of what that payroll looked like, and I have my payroll calculated in 60 seconds.
The real problem with information overload and the solution
The problem with information overload is not the actual information overload; it’s not having a process for it. Anytime I find I am overwhelmed with data, I sit down and organize the data. I immediately feel better because I am doing something about it.
Start making that list in Dynalist and pay attention to how you feel. I would be surprised if you couldn’t honestly tell me that you already felt better. Lists are a great way to purge what’s on your mind so you can look at it right in front of you.
Then, you prioritize and organize the information.
Then you get into action.
The ridiculously counter-intuitive solution to information overload
Walk away! Sometimes, you need to breathe and relax. If you’re tired, get some sleep. I am so much better able to focus when I am well-rested. That, alone, often relieves the stress of information overload.
Very often, where others would stay up late working on something, I go to sleep early. Then, I get up very early, well-rested, and get busy. That always works much better for me.
Once you have a process, you will find it easy to manage information.
In the video, I am going to show you several examples of how you can track different kinds of information, starting with a very simple CRM-like process for tracking conversations. I taught this to Chris Brogan a few years ago. Once I showed him this simple tweak, he was blown away at the power and the simplicity of it.
If you are feeling overwhelmed because of information overload, start by setting your thoughts down in some form. Then, prioritize everything in terms of the greatest need. Then, use SOMETHING to start tracking the info. I’ve given you two great options here, but there are many more out there.