4 May 2009

Attacking the Information Hoarding problem

Are you constantly motivated by the desire to stay on the edge, try your best to keep in pace with the latest, but find it an increasingly difficult proposition everyday? Then you’ve probably already encountered the information overload problem. So what is Information Overload? Essentially it refers to a state when you are surrounded with too much information and you find it distracting. It becomes difficult to use information effectively because you are unable to focus on applying the relevant information and ignoring the rest. Compounding the problem is when you are hard-pressed for time and want effective decisions to be made with that information.

I was reading up a bit on Grails the other day & chanced to visit this post. I liked that line from Mike – “I’m never surprised by the shear magnitude of stuff I don’t know about”. So very true. In my case this is what starts the ball rolling in the first place. You hear about a new piece of technology or solution and you drill down until you have understood the concept. So far so good but while exploring new concepts, you might land into other new interesting concepts. My usual tendency is to bookmark these side concepts and attack them later. That is infact the best solution as I don’t want to deviate attention from the main problem. However these bookmarked concepts are often forgotten and essentially the understanding of the main problem remains incomplete. This is an addictive problem that I’ll christen as the “Information Hoarding” problem, a subset of the larger Information Overload problem.

Coming to the information hoarding aspect, a realization dawns that no amount of technology solutions will help here. The primary and most plausible solution – the humble “browser bookmark” concept is no use today. My Firefox bookmarks contain more than a 1000 entries and I distinctly remember that I’d bookmarked each one of them with a purpose to visit back and checkout later. But when I look back today - no way I’m gonna check out these bookmarks now. Then there are the RSS feeds designed to deliver information to me instead of I having to go and hunt for it. My feed reader (Omea Reader) shows more than a hundred unread feeds. The subjects are interesting but the thought of reading each one of them itself puts me off.

What’s worse is that the quest to keep up with the information overload problem can turn into an unhealthy habit. No wonder that the last couple of months found me staying up late and skipping on my resolutions and not to mention eating into work schedule at times too. An addiction of sorts which was in ways destroying discipline and important schedules.

So last weekend, I tried contemplating on the problem. Essentially what do we need information for? For solving problems! But today’s technology allows you to collect information at will (Google Search ), so why do you need to collect and categorize it when the whole world out there is doing it for you. You just need to tap into that store when needed. Secondly instead of using & applying information the focus was becoming more of “collect it and save it for later”.

That how I came up with the following rules to abide by
  1. Information is to be applied for a purpose, not just to be bookmarked and marked for later. So avoid the tendency to bookmark.
  2. Process information there-n-then. Don’t mentally save it for later. So read through articles completely and understand them. Don’t leave them for later. If you can’t – don’t fret about it. It just means you really don’t need it that urgently.
  3. Focus more on “Getting thing done (GTD)” than the “How to get things done (HTGTD)” syndrome.
  4. Let the feed reader have not more than 7 feeds in any category.
  5. Remember the Zen rule – “What is more important than information is what we do with that information
Flip side though - I’d love if someone came up with a firefox addon that allows entering a due date when you bookmark something. And on that date, it can remind you to checkout the bookmark and tick it off .


  1. Zen rule says it all. Our aim towards getting information probably helps to move in one line to achieve defined goals.