Managing inputs

There were 90 trillion of emails sent in 2009. There are over 500 million Facebook users and over 160 million Twitter users. That means a lot of messages (to say the least) is produced on daily basis. If you add to that request at work from boss and co workers, family and home demands, newspapers, radio and TV  and it all adds up to a huge number of inputs that hit you everyday.
It’s a lot to digest and process. 

If you follow the principles of GTD it may result in being overwhelmed with the incoming information. If you allow all items to enter your space you’re risking overloading and getting bog down in stuff that is not relevant. With an increasing volume of information there is an on-going need to manage the inputs and keep them in balance.
There are couple ways to do that.

Consolidate

Each of us has a number of inboxes around them. Email at home, at work, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, magazines, rss news reader, paper notepads, desk trays etc. This results in a number of places that need to be checked for new content. To reduce the number of points o contact you can channel all your items into one or two inboxes.

You can push every electronic bit of communication into your email. This way you have only one place to look at and you can manage everything from there. This solution will be dependent on the volume of email you already receive if it’s high it might be difficult to manage everything appropriately.

With non electronic stuff you can set up a single place at your house where it will be held until processed. Rather than keep it in the car, home office, kitchen.

This type of consolidation may not work for everyone as it streams everything into one place and some people prefer to compartmentalise things. It helps them maintain better focus and attention on incoming inputs. But if single point of contact appeals to you it’s quite easy to setup.

Eliminate

It’s very easy to get signed up to  a three dozen of newsletters, new blogs, two social networks etc.  Everything seems nice and simple you talk bit here, leave a comment there, check out latest updates of your buddies. However in the end you have a number of places where new information is added constantly and unread count is growing.

One side effect of consolidation can be elimination. As you are working on channelling your items into fewer points of contact you should always consider those sources too. Do they bring any value, do you learn anything new, is this someone important etc.?
By cutting things no longer valid you make a space for other things you want to do. Also you reduce the time needed to process your stuff and get inspiration from higher quality sources.

Front-end loading

In GTD methodology you leave stuff in your inboxes or let them collect things for you. Once you have some time, you start processing things looking at individual items and making decisions about them.
If you find this process too much try to evaluate things as soon as they show up. Skip the inbox and make decision up-front.  If that email, conversation, book, article does not look interesting get rid off it. Don’t finish it as it’s a waste of you time and space in your self management system.

A good example of this is asking a  question whether particular item is useful now. Don’t worry about the future too much. If you need it later you can always search for it.
Certain limitation might be the ability to make decision quickly and being confident about them. I think this comes with time and experience so it can be learned.

Conclusion

Being exposed to new ideas, information is important for your development and new inputs keep your system going but throwing too much data onto it will clog it up. This is not practical nor useful strategy for getting good things done. You’ll never be short of inputs so there is no need to but more than you can use.
The key point of any self management system is to help you create, produce and deliver rather than deal with inputs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s