How to Stay Informed While Avoiding the Attention Crash

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

By Published on .

One of the most important skills executives need today is the know-how to manage and harness their personal information flow.

The Attention Crash is a crisis in global business that is getting worse every day. By 2009, the Radicati Group predicts that we'll spend 41% of our time managing e-mail. Now add to that the IMs, documents, Facebook pokes, RSS feeds, Twitter tweets and text messages coming at us, and we're officially way oversubscribed.

Unfortunately, the problem will not abate. Human attention is finite. It doesn't scale. Worse, the pace of change today is so rapid there's a huge need to stay digitally savvy. The key is in wrangling your information flow. Here are three of my best tips.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.
Inbox Zero
Blogger Merlin Mann has created a simple way to effectively manage e-mail. His approach involves setting aside blocks of time for "e-mail dashes," quickly triaging messages and automating some of the processes with search folders -- a powerful Outlook feature that most never use. Be sure to watch the video on Merlin's site.

Invest in search
When in doubt, let search tools -- either on your desktop or online -- do the work for you. The time you invest to set up these systems can pay huge dividends.

For example, I subscribe to around 500 RSS feeds in Google Reader. The great thing about my reader is that it's searchable and acts as a personal database. So recently when my colleague asked me for March Madness online-video statistics, I was able to pull them up in seconds by searching my archive.

Make unusable time usable
I read a ton. However, I have mastered how to stuff it into pockets of time that are normally "unusable." I get through about one business book a week by listening to them when I commute, travel and run errands. Most of the key books are available from Audible.com.

In addition, I use Instapaper.com to bookmark articles I want to read. I can access this site from any computer or mobile device. I also keep a reading folder in my e-mail that syncs up with my different devices. It's even available when I am offline.

These are just a few of the best tips. For more "life hacks," check out my del.icio.us bookmarks.
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