Too Much Information

The War of Words

If words were soldiers, I would be surrounded. And probably dragged into a prisoner-of-word camp.

In the past year, I've started 22 subscriptions to magazines, newspapers and newsletters. As a journalist, it seemed like a good expenditure. After all, don't I need to know what's going on, to get ideas on new topics? But at this rate, someday I'm going to be a very well-informed journalist standing in an unemployment line.

It's natural for homebased business owners to want to read everything, insists Leslie Levine, a 41-year-old author and speaker who works out of her Chicago home: "We crave information because we're isolated. You can't walk by somebody's office and see a magazine on their desk. Somebody doesn't pass you by and suggest that you read an article they enjoyed." So, homebased entrepreneurs, like hunters and gatherers of prehistoric times, collect what information they can. The problem is, they collect too much.

Of course, we can all stop subscribing to the publications that we never find time to read. But what about the rest of the stuff? Try to limit your information intake to two main areas: Information that's important to your business and stuff that makes you say, "I really love reading this."

Try the following methods for all that you've kept on your reading list:

  • Schedule a reading hour. Make it the last few hours of a Friday or the first few hours of a Monday-a time when your energy is low and you need a bit of a break. But don't do it when you're exhausted. You won't understand or retain what you're reading.
  • Clip articles for later reference. Circle everything interesting in your newspapers and magazines, file it, and throw the rest of the publication away. Yada, yada, yada. You've probably heard that suggestion a million times. But have you ever actually tried it? Maybe it'll work.
  • Outsource. There are several ways you can do this. If you have the bucks, pay for a brick-and-mortar clipping service to do all your reading for you-they'll send you the information you need, and not the needless. You can also subscribe to an Internet-based clipping service, like the $100-per-month service provided by gotmarketing.com. Or you could use a cheaper service, like the one I've used for several years now: elibrary.com. For $60 a year, I may not get the one-on-one attention I might receive at a more expensive service, but the Internet-based library sends me articles on various subjects if I ask it to, and I can look up tons of current and semi-ancient information on my own.

If you have a bored grandparent or uncle, a mother who's always offering to help, pay them a nominal fee to keep up-to-date on the topics or information you're constantly searching for. Then change the subscription on your magazines so that they head toward your reading relatives. They can then update you every week or month on what you need to know, either via snail mail, e-mail or in person. (Just think, meet with your mom and multitask).

Weapons Of War
Don't let publications pile up. Clip the important stuff and toss the rest.

Schedule a reading hour each week.

Pay a relative to scan publications for relevant articles, and have them fill you in on the news over coffee.

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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