Clearing Away the Information Clutter: How Successful Was I?

Last week I wrote about my information hoarding problem. Essentially, I collect more information than I can use. Hoarding of any kind creates anxiety and frustration. I always feel I need to read all this collected information (something that is impossible). Not using the information also leaves me feeling uncomfortable.

I have an excellent network of resources and tools, but I feel if I can’t at the very least re-share what I learn, then I am doing a disservice to those who take the time and effort to write such interesting papers, blogs, books, and even tweets.  

To help, I created a modified boston square to help me analyse the information I collect.  And, to my surprise, it started to help almost immediately.

I reasoned that we all collect vast amounts of information that we find ‘interesting’. We save it somewhere: online tools such as Evernote, web bookmarks, hard drive folders, even printed and in binders. For me, it’s my Instapaper read later queue. However, we rarely make use of this information and it sits around and slowly builds up over time. My thought: dump this collection of information as soon as possible, if not immediately.  

I discovered an interesting blog post on Psych Central this week that talked of similar methods for overcoming hoarding and other similar compulsive behaviours. (And, as it was research for this blog post, I knew I would use the information).

Therefore, I took my information collecting to task using the model to see if I can begin to reprogram myself away from a collecting mindset. Here are my successes and not-so-successes:

  • In my unsorted Instapaper read later list (i.e. nothing yet categorised), I deleted everything older than one week. If I hadn’t made use of it yet, it wasn’t the right information.
  • I sent only 10 articles to my Instapaper read later list this week. I may have opened three or four times as many links (perhaps more) in blogs and tweets. But while interesting, they were not relevant to my immediate goals. In my next blog post, I will share all 10 and how I used them/plan to use them.
  • I began going through my Instapaper read later folders and decided to narrow down each folder (which relates to a specific topic) to a Top 10. I will send these to Evernote or Diigo (I am playing with them both) and these will be my Keep and Refresh Frequently folders. I hope to have no Instapaper folders.
  • My Dropbox was full of PDFs: academic articles, books, prints of websites, all in organised folders.  I applied the same Top 10 rules to each topic area.  Again, to be Kept and Refreshed Frequently.
  • Books: I find it harder to decide what to do with books (I am currently reading through four or five). But I created one rule: I apply my method before I decide to buy a book. Therefore, an interesting but irrelevant book is dumped before I decide to purchase. I think books will be another post. I’ve made a start clearing my Amazon Wishlist, which I use to keep all interesting--sounding books, but there’s a way to go yet.

It was quite a successful week; I’ll let you know if it continues. If you have tried applying the model I created or any other, let me know how it goes.