Personal Knowledge Management: Don’t Be Afraid to Delete Your Info Dump

I love gathering information and making use of it - whether passing on to others, or using it to try something myself. (Quite aptly, my top three StrengthsFinder strengths are Ideation, Input and Learner). Each morning I scan through my RSS feeds, email newsletters, and Twitter feeds and send anything interesting to my Instapaper account.

I realised the other day that I was sending 10 or more interesting links to my Instapaper account every day, sometimes many more. Each evening, Instapaper would send these links as a curated compilation via Amazon to my Kindle. 

But by the end of a busy week, when I can't read everything, I sometimes have 70 or more articles waiting to be read. By the end of a busy month, 200 or more. It is too much. And too much information can have negative consequences, as Derek Dean and Caroline Webb explained in McKinsey Quarterly in Jan 2011.

I’m an information hoarder.

Simply put, I acquire far more knowledge than I can consume. More books, articles, pamphlets, links, tweets, blog posts, and infographics than I will ever have time to properly, as Harold Jarche explains, seek, sense, and share.

In response I did something I didn’t think I ever would: I deleted all the Kindle files. It felt really good. I reasoned that if I hadn’t read or used an article yet, I will likely find a successor in the future. Good information gets cited in blogs over and over again.  That’s why your connections are more important than the information itself.

Next, I thought about how to sort through my Instapaper links. I wanted to come up with a way to parse the value of the information I collect, whether ‘on the fly’ (i.e. as I read), or once a day/week/month.  More than this, I realised I needed something to apply all my knowledge acquisitions.

The key understanding I developed is the belief that an important part of Personal Knowledge Management is the ability to delete information and not worry. Be confident in your abilities, knowing that should the need arise, you can find the same or similar/newer information again. 

I decided it's time to practice information mindfulness (see Lifehacker, Psych Central, Howard Rheingold). I have searched (briefly) for some help in parsing the information I collect. Knoco Stories have an interesting Boston Square exercise:


However, I found the use of critical and non-critical did not help me, as I classed all my information as critical at some point. Therefore, I’ve tried to create my own Boston Square. It’s a work in progress, but I’d feel great if it started a conversation on knowledge deletion.

I think we all create an information store of 'stuff' that is interesting, but that we will never use. My idea is we don't even create this store, we dump it. If you find something interesting but cannot make use of it quickly, or if isn't valuable to achieving your long-term goals, don't keep it. 

I'm not sure whether this is useful, but I'm going to apply it for a week and narrate the results next Friday.

What do you think?