Information overload

It’s time to take stock of where my time goes – mostly to work, but like many I am in desperate need of time management skills.  I love information – I read blogs, I absorb as much as I can on the ever changing landscape of the law in South Carolina and nationwide.  I love philosophy, particularly as it relates to the practice of law.  Just now, I took a few minutes to consider how I spend my time when I am not working on a particular case, and realized that I am on no less than six listserves, for various groups and topics, I currently have 67 blogs loaded on google reader, and I have a growing stack of books that I want to read but do not have time for.

This is not an “I will teach you how to manage your time” post.  I’m in the thick of it and, as I often do, I am sorting out my thoughts as I put them on the screen.  Sometimes that works, sometimes it does not, some such posts get published and some do not.  I’m open to suggestions from anyone who has conquered this issue of time management.

One thing I am realizing is that I am suffering from information overload – I am addicted to gathering information, and it is not readily apparent how some of it will ever be helpful.  I don’t want to miss anything, but I think that a good first step is for me to stop absorbing every email on every listserve, and maybe even leave a few of them.  Also, I think it may help if I pick 20 blogs that I read the most often, and leave the rest alone for a while.  (If you are curious, my “daily reads” are on the blogroll here and at South Carolina Criminal Defense Blog).

It may be a matter of prioritizing as well – the next step might be making a list of what I spend my time on each day, prioritizing those things, and either streamlining or deleting the bottom half of the list.  When it comes down to it, if I ask myself would I rather be reading a book about the practice of law or reading  a series of blog posts about the practice of law, there is no question that I would prefer to kick back with a book (with a few exceptions for the best of our blogger friends out there – I love the trial-practice related blogs).

In an article I found on the Global Research Development Center’s website (interesting in light of the organization’s mission which is to collect and disseminate information), William Van Winkle writes that the intake of information can be addictive, and says that “fighting data asphyxiation can be difficult but possible.”

Data is like food. A good meal is served in reasonably-sized portions from several food groups. It leaves you satisfied but not stuffed. Likewise with information, we’re best served when we can partake of reasonable, useful portions, exercising discretion in what data we digest and how often we seek it out.

Maintaining two blogs is time consuming as well – I applaud those bloggers who say that they can crank out a meaningful blog post in a matter of minutes, because I do not find it so easy.  But, blogging will be found near the top of my priority list and I am not giving it up just yet.

Some potential fixes that I hope to put into practice include:

  • checking Facebook and Twitter only once a day
  • checking email only once a day, at the end of the day
  • limiting the number of listserves that I am on
  • limiting the number of blogs that I follow daily
  • returning non-emergency phone calls at the end of the day
  • taking a few moments for meditation at the beginning of the day (focus=productivity)
  • making lists (I already do this) and sticking to them (not so much)
  • delegate more tasks when it is possible
  • set time limits for tasks when possible
  • limit distractions – and at least sometimes, close the door to my office

The biggest hurdle for me at the moment is limiting the information overload.  There are so many things that I want/need more time for that, in the big picture, are more important than listserve emails or today’s 100 blog posts – spending time with my son, for example.  Or finishing the painting that is sitting on an easel in my living room.  Taking a walk or working out each day.  Putting that extra [x] number of hours into any given case that I am working on.

Time management is a misnomer – I can’t manage time (time does not exist, but there’s a conversation for another time and place).  I can manage what I do with my time each day.

One Response to “Information overload

  • I could have easily written this post almost word for word, except I’m not a lawyer. However, I am a physician and suffer similar pulls between work, self and the need to quench my information appetite.
    Limiting listserves and blogs sounds like an excellent start.

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