Way back in 1971 a very wise man wrote: “In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else, … What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
The man who wrote this is Herbert Simon, in his article “ Designing Organizations for an Information-Rich World.” An accomplished gent, he was known as one of the founding fathers of artificial intelligence, information processing, decision-making, attention economics, and quite a few other business and information concepts that have come to change and define the world. In fact, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics in 1978.
He is indeed a fascinating man, but my point here is not to discuss his life. Rather, his comment above REALLY resonates with me as I wrestle with making profound and purposeful use of this information aggregate in front of me right now – the Internet.
Yes, I was be-bopping back in those classic 60s and 70s when Simon wrote, which now makes me a Prime-Time Boomer!
I purport that people of all ages and ilk face a challenge in effectively managing the myriad information we face each day. But might those of us who lay claim to Boom-hood and have one foot in the world of Flower Power and the other in the Garden of Digital Overload struggle even more? Do you sometimes feel sucked dry? Or spun into a frenzy? Or completely out of control?
Here are 5 things you can do to get a handle on information, to be in control of it, not it be in control of you!
- Keep the focus on yourself: A wise phrase borrowed from self-help groups, and instrumental in keeping your priorities on what matters to you, not someone else!
- Reflect and ponder: Forget technology. Forget social networking. Forget email. Think about the things in life that matter to you, that interest you. Get a handle on your interests, your hobbies, your LIFE!
- What do you want from your interests? Simply put – what is your purpose: to research? To learn how to do something? To write? To communicate with like-minded souls?
- “Google-it”: Of course there are other search engines, but this is the standard term used for Internet searching. Example: You are interested in learning how to make potato pancakes. Try googling “Video potato pancakes,” to see how to make them, or “Forum potato recipes” to talk with other people who want to make them, or just plain “potato pancake recipes.” Now you’ll have exactly the type of information you want about your subject.
- Experiment: The important thing is you’ve identified your passions and you’re beginning to make the Internet work for you instead of against you. Try some different search terms to see what comes up in one that may not come up in another. Set up some bookmarks for sites that you really like. Subscribe to sites to get automatic updates.
At this point you have a focus on those things that interest you! You have ammunition to get the pounding information elephant off your back and into your viewfinder. Now, you have the secret to controlling information instead of having it control you.