Too Much Information

We Are At War

Richard Saul Wurman's book, Information Anxiety 2001, claims that a weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in 17th century England.

That's not hard to believe. Your great-great-great-great grandfather lived in different times: Maybe he received some new information from friends, his church pastor or a stranger at the market. If he could read, maybe he had access to a newspaper or the occasional book.

Today, information comes through a bevy of channels: telephone, voice mail, snail mailbox, e-mail and the Web (accessed on your desktop, laptop and handheld computer), pager, fax machine, television, radio, newspaper, magazines, newsletters, books, neighbors, strangers in the market, outdoor ads. . . . You get the picture.

It's no wonder we're all stressed. Five years ago, you probably didn't have a second computer, much less a high-speed Net connection. Now we're all using more equipment to get more information and we're paying more for it, too, so we're working harder, which means we have less time to spend getting our information.

Something has to go. You don't have to throw out your TV, but maybe you can limit your watching to one hour a day (hey, it works for your kids). Even CNBC, while business-informative, can be distracting if it's running while you're working. So, too, is talk radio. Do you need a pager if you have a cell phone? Can you combine your business-line voice mail with that of your cell phone? Do you still need to subscribe to a newspaper, or can you scan headlines online while you sip coffee? I can't tell you how to minimize, or consolidate, the distractions in your life-because it's your life--but maybe these suggestions will help.

Weapons Of War
Click off the talk radio. If you must have background noise, go for some classical music.

Ditch the pager.

Use an online news site to scan daily headlines.

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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