5 Ways Digital Pros Can Deal With Information Overload
18 December 2013, Jonathan Saipe
I have a very clear recollection working in an agency-side web development team in the late 90’s.
In order to provide the most cutting edge solutions to our clients, it required us to continually navigate our way through browser updates (in those days Netscape among other!), developments in HTML, changes in global consumer technology vis a vis resolutions, plugins, browser variants, and, dare I say, Internet connection speeds.
It was stressful delivering a fully tested solution to clients, but equally stressful keeping up to speed with the latest trends and developments.
‘Data smog’ is increasing
Fastracking twenty years later, things have become a lot of harder.
The digital landscape is evolving at a phenomenal rate: Google is updating its organic search algorithm almost daily; new AdWords updates are being released every 3 days; post IPO Facebook has been continually changing its ad programme and API; Google+ is gradually integrating itself into more and more Google-owned products (the latest being YouTube comments); mobile behaviour such as mcommerce is changing almost daily; analytics technology and pressure for more exact attribution and ROI measurement is also constantly growing.
Filtering the noise
How does a (digital) marketer or any digital professional process this daily deluge of new information, research and technology advances? The answer is using technology itself to filter noise so that only the meaningful information gets processed by our already overloaded brains.
Here are 5 ways to help organise and filter information so that it becomes more manageable.
1. Analytics dashboards
Web analysts have a wonderful acronym: DRIP (data rich information poor). The vast majority of us find it tough to process the deluge of data that analytics tools provide. We therefore end up with lots of data but very little useful information to use as part of our continuous improvement process (which after all is the core of web analytics).
One answer to DRIP and information overload is to create analytics dashboards that convey the most pertinent and essential data – ideal for C-level reports or for busy marketers to cast an eye over.
In Google Analytics, they are surprisingly simple to create, but if you do find yourself struggling, there are many resources available where you can download example dashboards for free.
2. RSS readers
RSS is strange beast. Many digital marketers find RSS confusing, when in fact it exists to simplify our lives.
RSS (really simple syndication) will allow you to subscribe to websites, blogs and communities that are relevant to your daily consumption of information without having to visit each individual URL.
Find yourself a simple RSS reader and subscribe to your preferred content. Content updates will be delivered straight into your reader for simple consumption.
Since Google sunset it’s RSS reader in the summer of 2013, many marketers have jumped ship to Feedly. Feedly’s simple interface and viewing options make keeping up to speed with your reading less daunting.
3. Twitter lists or Google+ circles
If you’re using Twitter or Google Plus to follow colleagues, brands, news sources or influential people, not only will you struggle with the volume of information, but you may also miss important updates or posts. The answer to both issues is to create lists in Twitter or if you’re using Google+, create circles.
Organise your lists and circles how you see fit. I tend to organise my Twitter lists by interest and discipline: search marketing, analytics, social media, tech news etc and my Google+ Circles by my relationships: Emarketeers team, friends and family, influencers, brands etc.
A regular scan of your lists will ensure you’re kept up to speed of the latest news or updates without having to sift through the thousands of messages in the your default stream.
4. Bookmark and read it later apps
There will be many occasions when you come across an interesting piece of content but won’t have time, nor the headspace to read it. Rather than lose it, use bookmarking services like Pocket or Instapaper.
You can install these services as mobile apps or desktop browser extensions. Or simply visit their respective websites and create an account.
They work in similar fashion allowing readers to save content for later. Not only will this allow you to take in content at a time that suits you, it also ensures that you don’t miss a vital story or piece of news.
5 Task management tools
If your brain is overloaded, even the smallest issues can seem overwhelming. Organising your tasks can very much alleviate the daunting feeling of being overloaded.
There is a huge range of task management tools out there, so here’s a selection to get the ball rolling:
- Google Tasks – particularly useful when combined with Gmail, but limited functionality
- Evernote – great family of tools both desktop and mobile
- Remember The Milk – simple, gets the job done and has the ability to share tasks
- Todo.ly – feature rich simple task management
- Flow – well regarded collaborative tasks management tool – mobile and web options
- Nirvana – feature rich tool for managing lists and tasks
- Well known project collaboration tools such as: Basecamp, Proofhub and Zoho Projects
Feel free to recommend your favourite tool and more importantly good luck!