Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I'm on a panel tonight on information overload at an event for the Association for Women Communications in Santa Barbara. A few days ago, we held a quick "panel prep" meeting, and as I listened to the other women on the panel describe their professional focus on helping people manage not just information overload, but finding balance in their busy lives, I couldn't help but feel more like one of their typical customers and less like someone qualified to share the stage with them.  Six kids, full time job, my book just out...I could use some expert advice on information overload!

I've been reflecting on how I manage my life, my engagement with social media and my interest in technology. I don't think I've ever really thought about it, but I have implemented some strategies to keep me sane. I'll be talking about these tonight, but as I'm preparing for the panel, I thought it might be useful to capture some of the ways I find balance and how I've learned to manage too much information.

1. I don't watch TV.
Seriously, we don't even usually have the television on in my house, and if we do, it's usually one of the kids watching something on Netflix. I don't have the news streaming in the background, I don't have a television in my bedroom (an neither do any of our kids), and if there is a tv show that I want to watch, we watch it streaming online. I haven't watched tv for years, and I have to say, I haven't missed it.

2. I have a separate Twitter account for news.
I don't think it's unusual for people to have multiple Twitter accounts, but I have two: one for news monitoring, and one for everything else. If I want to know what's going on in the world, I check my news account and monitor the feed. I could also use Tweetdeck or another filtering tool for this, but I have found that having a separate account is easier for me to manage, and allows me to moderate what information I take in, when.

3. I don't use a computer at night.
I do use my phone and iPad, but I have found that they are much easier for me to put down. I also typically use my mobile devices for playing games at night, if I use them at all, so I don't usually take in new information while I'm using them. I find that when I'm on my computer, I tend to spend more time at night working, when I really need to disconnect and rest. This policy also allows me to honor my next strategy...

4. The evening is for family.
I spend most of my day on my computer. From the time I get home until the kids go to bed, my time is focused on them. There were many years, especially when I first started my company, that I never turned off my computer, never stopped working. It was brutal and impacted everyone in my family. Over time, I've learned to separate my work time from my family time. It has made a huge impact on me, and has made the time I do spend working more productive, because I'm always working against self-imposed deadlines.

5. If I'm feeling overwhelmed, I go to the beach.
I'm lucky; I can walk to the beach from my house, so when I get that overwhelmed feeling, off I go. The beach may be it for me now, but in the past, taking a bath, working on a creative project, or playing a game were all ways I could decompress. Everyone has something that takes them from hectic to calm; find yours and use it liberally.

6. Understanding the value I get from social media.
Facebook and Twitter go on, and are no worse off when I take a break. Stepping away sometimes actually gives me more perspective on what value social media brings to me. It helps me set boundaries and "rules" for what information I subject myself to and when I open those gates. Sometimes when I see the negative stuff, I have to remember that 1. I have a choice of what information I allow in, and 2. People who are negative and hurtful through social media are likely also that way in real life. If I wouldn't have a drink with them in real life, why would I "hang out" with them through social media? Block, unfriend and unfollow are great curation tools for TMI.

7. Quiet and focused energy.
Yoga is my friend. A brisk walk or workout is an active way to clear the clutter in my head, but taking a few minutes to meditate can also help me refocus. They both really do the same thing for me: extract me from the information stream and help me focus on my health, energy and what's really important.

I'm sure I've employed other strategies that aren't coming to mind, and I'm also sure that you all have even better tips and advice to share. Please add your own information overload strategies in the comments, and I'll share them with the panel tonight!

1 comment:

  1. I'm sometimes a little uncomfortable saying I don't watch TV, because that can sound very judgmental or humblebrag-y. The truth is, for 20 years or so, it just hasn't been a habit for me. I'm not interested in professional sports, for example, so I don't have a team to follow.

    You want to watch it? I hope you have a great time.

    I do use my computer quite a bit in the evening, in part because I'm back in a corporate job and our workplace rules on outside access are fairly strict. So evening is my chance to do a little outside work or visit the echoing, neglected precincts of my blog. Or read yours.

    I think your remarks about time for the family are central. People, especially executives, who talk about work/life balance often seem to mean "fit our work into your personal life."

    There's also that great piece of advice from Steven Wright: "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" I take this to mean you do have at least some choice, and it's up to you to be mindful of that possibility and to exercise it.

    I have never wanted to be a CEO (which is apparently just as well). I'm not even good at managing other people. I could change those things, possibly, in the same way that I could learn Korean -- which is to say, doesn't seem likely. So I accept that my decisions and my preferences close things off--or maybe it's better to say that my actions steer me in another direction.