I’ve read a couple of articles lately about information hoarding, and I need to come clean about something. I am an information hoarder. I recently cleaned out (and recycled) four—yes, you heard that right—four boxes of files full of ‘resources for future reference.’ We won’t discuss the number of bookmarks I used to have on my browser, or the fact that I still probably have too many.
What makes me a hoarder isn’t that I collect articles or links to blogs or other resources, but that I collect them and never read or refer back to them. I am afraid of losing information that I believe, at the moment I save it, is very important. Its importance in reality, however, is pretty clear since I never get back to it.
So what do I do when on a Twitter chat and I end up with blog and article overload? First of all, I open every suggested resource in a new window. As I have time during the day I read (or at least skim) them. If I don’t have time to read something, when I close my computer out for the day I take a quick look at what’s left and make a decision: take a few minutes to read it now, or it goes away…forever.
I started doing this because of the four boxes of useless files I'd saved for fifteen years and never looked at. I realized that the resources were mentioned in the context of a chat, and after a few hours that material became less relevant, and by the time a day or so had passed I wondered why I bookmarked the resource in the first place. The result for me has been surprising. I have a sense of freedom I haven't felt in a long time.
First of all, I no longer have masses of unread information sitting there, making me feel guilty that I haven't read it and cluttering up my bookmarks. I have sorted the bookmarks I do want to keep--mostly links to more enduring resources like favorite blogs or helpful sites that contain more than one piece of information that is relevant and useful. Second, because this has worked so well for me for digital content I've started doing the same for hard copy materials, including work documents. My first question is now "Do I have an electronic copy of this on the shared drive or my 'personal' drive on the server?" If the answer is yes, I recycle it immediately. If the answer is no, I try to go immediately to the all purpose machine and scan them into the appropriate activity files, then recycle the hard copies.
To people who aren't afraid they will miss out on something great if they delete or take a pass on resources, this won't make any sense. But to those of you who are like me (it's okay to admit it), give this simple idea a try. Admit you have a problem. Admit you are an information hoarder. Learn to curtail the urge to save everything and end up reading nothing. If it's truly relevant you'll make the time to read it now. If you pass it by it may cycle back into your view later, or maybe not. Either way, learn to let go of the need to keep and control everything that crosses your path. You will be freed for a richer and deeper experience with the content you do read (and maybe even decide to keep)!