Information Anxiety | January 23, 2010
One of the problems of working in the knowledge economy is the constant need to keep abreast of current trends and thinking. This would be fine if you worked in a mature industry or one with a limited number of books, papers and conferences appearing each year. However in the knowledge economy of the web, more information is being published every day than could be consumed in a year. What’s more, that pace is increasing.
The problem is exacerbated by a number of things. First of all I’m a reasonably prolific speaker, so feel the need to spend time researching my next topic and synthesising the results. I also program two conferences so have to spend a certain amount of time researching potential speakers and reviewing their slides or presentation videos. Oh, and on top of that I’ve got a company to run, clients to satisfy and staff to look after. As such the majority of this research happens at evenings and weekends, outside office hours.
As such, I often find myself in a position of triage; making snap judgements about the value of information I find and then prioritising them accordingly. So I clip articles to Evernote, store audio in Huffduffer and podcasts in iTunes. I subscribe to RSS feeds, capture video presentations on PopScreen and store lists of books to read on Amazon. Oh, and I’ve got a stack of presentations to review on SlideShare at some stage. Every now and then I get chance to chip away at some of these data sources, but it’s rarely enough. Here’s a quick example of what I’m currently dealing with…
- 269 video presentations to watch
- 230 slide decks to review
- 36 books to read
- 542 unread RSS feed posts
- 141 podcast episodes to listen to
- 213 unread articles
It’s a classic case of Information Anxiety. Not enough free time to process all the information I want to. The result is a constant background level of stress. Even when I’m at rest I’m thinking about all the stuff I should, and could, be doing. Now I’ve always been a fairly relaxed person so am comfortable dealing with the stress. But it’s ever-present all the same.
I’ve been thinking about going on a holiday recently. Now with most holidays the point is to go away, relax and re-charge your batteries. However I’ve been toying with the idea of a different, and thoroughly 21st century holiday. Not to relax but to consume. The idea would be to go somewhere for a week or ten days with a stack load of book, articles, presentations and podcasts and get on top of my information overload. I’m not sure if this kind of working vacation common but I know at least a couple of friends who have dome this in the last few months.
Holidays at home are popular at the moment, so it’s something I considered. However I felt that the familiar scenery would force me into learnt patterns of behaviour that would prevent me from getting stuff done. Instead I’m looking for somewhere quiet—but not isolated—where I can spend the day snacking on information. It could be a cottage in the country or a hut on the beach. Just as long as the surroundings have enough variety to keep me interested and prevent me from getting cabin fever. So if you’ve got any ideas, give me a shout.
In the meantime, do you have trouble keep on-top of the wealth of information thrown at you? Have you developed interesting or useful coping strategies? Would love to hear from you.
Posted at January 23, 2010 9:47 PM