Coping with the information explosion
This is the age of information explosion. It is very difficult to survive in this information jungle, if you do not have a good, sound and effective battle plan. As a software professional, information is your life blood. Without information and the latest of it, you will become obsolete in a matter of months. No other profession is this dependent on information, because in no other profession does the technology changes at such a drastic pace. But while information is expanding rapidly, and the need for its consumption is increasing, the amount of time available for such activity is not increasing to keep time with it. Already, most successful professionals spend their ‘leisure’ time trying to catch up on important reading and viewing. Now with Internet, the amount of information that one can access is limitless. You can now surf the Net for hours.
In coping with the information explosion, it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Digest smaller amounts of material that are richer in information, not a gluttonous amount filled with starchy nonsense. Enjoy what you read (In this multimedia era, when I say read, what I mean is read, hear and see!!). And by no means must everything you absorb have a specific purpose. You can learn a lot about how to survive in the corporate world from reading “The Dilbert Principle”. But read it because, it’s a good book, not because, of some work-related benefit.
Become an ‘Information ecologist’ by keeping your environment free of unhealthy elements: Screen out unreliable information, word pollution, redundancy, irrelevance, etc.
- Identify material worthy of your attention.
- There are agencies which provide articles on specific areas from different magazines and newspapers. Get the services of such agencies and ask them to send articles on subjects that you are interested in. This will save a considerable amount of time and energy and you will not miss a single item that you should have read.
- Develop the discipline to discard the unworthy.
- Learn to seek out and home in on pertinent facts and figures.
- Make greater use of your mental potential by learning to read more efficiently, increasing your brain’s retentiveness, reducing stress that might negatively affect your performance, improving your work environment for better performance and sharpening your listening skills and note-taking ability.
- Don’t keep back issues of magazines. Tear off (or take a Xerox copy) the pages that you feel are worth keeping and file them in properly categorized ring binders.
- The Internet or the Web is a time waster, that is if you don’t know how to manage your time. You start searching for something in a site, then follow the links to other related sites and from there follow the links to others and so on … and before you realize, you must have spend hours on the net. So set a specific time, say 1 hour, before starting your research and stop when the time is over. Stay focused on the subject you are searching, don’t jump to other links just because they appear to be interesting.
- While researching for a particular subject on the Net, before actually getting connected, spend some time with a paper and pencil. Write down the possible key words that you are going to search. Write down the URLs of all the sites that you are going to visit. Then use a good search engine, I find Google (www.google.com) the best, for the search using the key words. When your search is based on phrases or more than one word ( for example Software Engineering), put them in double quotes, otherwise, the search engine will consider it as two words and you will get a lot of unwanted documents.
- Another time-saving technique during Net-surfing is to download or save the documents to your local hard disk and review them off-line. This will save you a lot of time and money.
To effectively tackle the information explosion, you must develop your own media mix. You should begin by logging your ‘information time’. Log how much time you spend daily on gathering information. Be specific. At the end of the day evaluate your log and find out the areas where time is wasted and where you should spend more time. Set your priorities–what is most important for me? Is it the sports section or is it something related to latest developments in IT? As you do the logging and analysis over a period time, you will be able to develop your own methods of coping with the information explosion.
Alexis Leon, DQ Week Madras, 26th May 1997.