Too much information, often referred to as TMI, is a term that is generally used in casual conversation to indicate when someone has inadvertently spilled their guts on a topic of particularly sensitive or personal nature. We live in a world of instant access to information, both public and private, enabled by all of the smart devices we port around with us to stay continuously connected. I don’t doubt that a good many of us struggle with how to manage all of the chatter.
How do we keep up with the latest news and developments while avoiding becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data bombarding us every day? We need to be resourceful and educated, but who has the time to read all of the trades, every vendor update, and each industry expert’s newsletter or blog? It truly can feel like too much information when research becomes a chore. As busy professionals, a four-step strategy can help to manage this rising tide of information while focusing on, and committing to, the vital content that is truly relevant to our current strategy.
Steps 1 & 2: Categorization & Scheduling
The first step is to split up the information into categories that you would like to focus on at different times, such as new technology trends, competitive intelligence, regulatory shifts in your space, etc. This helps to decipher from the masses of information what to pay attention to at any given time. The second step is to carve into your schedule that piece of time dedicated to reading the research you elected to review.
Here’s an example of step one and two coming together:
Monday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on new technology. What’s new or trending and why? Most of us need a lift on Monday morning — reading about something new and exciting will help to get your creative juices flowing, stimulate you mentally and drive a renewed focus.
Tuesday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on competitive intelligence. What is your competition up to? Who is making a move? Depending on what you uncover, it may not be what you want to think about on a Monday, but reading something you may need to react to on a Tuesday strategically gives you time to respond the rest of the week.
Wednesday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on the economy. Check the stock market to see who’s up, down and why. With a view into the information gleaned on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday’s stock watch can become more interesting and more tactically significant.
Thursday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on regulatory shifts. What new laws, regulations and guidelines might affect your strategy? Do any of them result in new or different compliance measures? This will help direct where you plan to devote time in your next research effort.
Friday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on smart moves. Take the time to read about strokes of genius by smart persons and companies, and how you can use this in your personal day-to-day actions. You might learn something of strategic significance or just discover a great new conversation starter. This is the fun stuff, just enjoy it.
As you refine your sources of information, you can narrow them down to suit your needs — whether you are vertically aligned or a generalist. Conduct a keyword search on Google, set up alerts tracking the latest news from subject matter experts on LinkedIn, industry trades and admired companies. Make a point of simply asking where trusted consultants get their information. Taking a new direction and being turned on to a whole different perspective can prove enlightening.
If you are a manager, you can even give each one of your team members a rotating assignment and have them bring in fresh information from each different perspective to spark discussion at your weekly meetings, for example: Dave- new tech trends; Sarah- focus on competition; Kevin- stock watch, Lynda- regulatory shifts; and Dennis- smart moves in our space.