Dear Lifehacker, While trying to be an informed person in this digital age, I am rapidly becoming overwhelmed. I am currently getting my different news types (social/business/general) via Facebook, Twitter and RSS in Outlook, I find it to be a real mission to keep on top of it. To add to the problem, I bookmark sites often for further reading after hours. Is there a site or program that can magically merge it all for me? Please help me untangle this digital mess ! Thanks, Information Overload
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Keeping track of all that information is a real challenge, but I think you’re approaching the solution in the wrong way. There are certainly options for consolidating all this information into a single place — the notifications system you’ll find on smartphones is one obvious example. We have specific guides on consolidating notifications for Windows and Mac.
But the fact is that it isn’t really a whole lot quicker to scan through notifications in one place than it is to scan through them in half-a-dozen. Software can only get you so far. There are two more useful things you can do: prune the number of sources you read, and set aside time in your calendar to keep up with those sources.
On the first point: when you first sign up for a service like Twitter or Facebook, it’s easy to enthusiastically follow lots of individuals. Ultimately, the bald truth is you won’t care about many of them. Taking time periodically — even if that’s only once every six months — to cut out or mute people you no longer care about reduces the volume of information you have to get through. The same goes for your RSS feeds.
Equally important: just because you received an email or a Facebook notification or 53 new Tweets in the last minute, that doesn’t mean you have to look at them right now. Don’t be a slave to new information. Set time on your calendar to catch up on those sources. For email, it might be once an hour at the top of the hour. For Facebook, it might be at lunch and on your journey home. There’s no single formula that works for everyone — your work might require you to check email more regularly — but there’s an approach that will work for you.
Finally, you need to realise that there’s already more information in the world than you could ever hope to keep track of. It isn’t possible to be informed about everything, and nor is it especially helpful. Don’t feel guilty because you can’t find out everything right now. There will always be time to find out later if it matters.
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