I make things more complicated than they need to be. I suffer from information overload and it is all my fault. I buy tools and implement systems that I never seem to stick with, and each time think that if I only use this application or day planner religiously, I will have it all together. I will stop forgetting things. I will stop missing deadlines because something gets lost in the shuffle the drama of daily life.
Here are the major information-related problems in my writing life:
- Buried under avalanches of paper — I have two huge US Post Office letter bins storing the paper files I’ve printed out over the years or given to me FILLED with documents that I have never read. I can’t throw them away, but I can’t get around to reading them either.
- Keeping up with my Twitter Feed — I want to build my Twitter following and since I’m not posting often to this blog, I need to keep content flowing out to maintain my current followers and add new ones. I do not want to fill my feed with aggrandizing self-promotional drivel, but give my followers something content that is helpful. I tweet links to good articles about writing and publishing, but most of all I post inspirational quotes. I want to tweet at least 4 times a day, but that is a lot of content, and I tend to run out of quotes and have several days with no content as a result.
- Keeping up with Content — I use Google Reader to follow about 100 or so blogs that I’ve found interesting over the past couple of years. They are poorly labeled and because of the sheer amount of daily traffic on some of them, I miss a lot of things. My Kindle Fire has a Pulse application which also is another source of daily content for me. I follow about 1000 people on Twitter which is another source of potential content for future posts. Then there is email; Facebook updates, Linked-In updates and content I stumble across while surfing the web.
- Contact Management — I have most of my contact info stored in Outlook 2010 which I somehow managed to export to my iPod touch a while ago. I also some contact info captured in webmail since I need to use webmail frequently at work to contact and respond to people. I also have email addresses and phone numbers scrawled in notebooks, in my Moleskine day planners and on scraps of paper scattered everywhere. I don’t often trust the contact data that I have captured because I don’t know how current it is. And whatever phone number I might need is never within the device that I am carrying with me that day.
- To-Do Lists — This is another case of information scattered to the four winds. I have Word document task lists, I have lists in my head (in fact most of them are in my head and keep running through my head as I walk through the house, drive to work, lay in bed, and occur to me almost anywhere where I don’t have a pen or other means to record it at that moment). I have lists in my day planner, appointment cards in my wallet, I have lists on index cards and on post-its some of which that have been floating around for months and, in some cases, years.
What have I done about this? I started using Evernote. Although I’ve had it on my computer for a couple of years now, but I didn’t really use it. About six months ago, I downloaded the Evernote Web Clipper and things started to change. The information that I’ve gathered for the Creative Thinking for Creative Writers (CT4CW) project has been considerable. I have a lot of paper (printed eBooks, articles, etc.) and a lot of bookmarks to general creativity sites, creativity resources, creativity experts, blogs about creativity, etc. My usual, scatterbrained mess. But then I started using Web Clipper to cut the articles and useful information directly from the site, removing the headers, and advertisements in the side bars and the comments in the comment section. I was able to cut what I specifically needed and have the site also marked so I could find the article again.
I could also use Evernote’s tagging feature to designate that this was info for the CT4CW project and even what section of the book it was for. I could search for critical info, cut articles from several sites and then read them later to see if any of the content was applicable for my project.
Next, I created a new note and attached my working draft of the book to it. Now I don’t have to worry about remembering to bring a flash drive with me containing the latest version of the file… which considering my track record with flash drives was definitely a barrier to the writing process.
I bought The Evernote Bible: The Guide to Everything Evernote by Brandon Collins and read it in one sitting. This helped me to understand how to really use the application to its full potential. So I am now using it to build and track content and just trying to transition into becoming a power user of Evernote. I do think this a killer app for a writer. Stay tuned for a series of articles on how I’m using Evernote for my writing projects and how I’m using it to conquer information overload.
Do you suffer from information overload? How do you deal with it? Please comment below.