7/7/11

Elephant Post: How Do You Make Sense of All that Information & Still Do Your Day Job?

(image [cc] Vicchi)
Whenever I am in a room that is discussing how to handle "information overload" there usually comes a point in the conversation when someone says "I just don't know how people can monitor all that information – blogs, twitter, email, professional reading, etc. – and still handle all the demands of their day job." Immediately after this statement, there is usually a pause in the conversation, then for some odd reason, everyone leans over the table and looks toward me to answer this issue. I usually smile and tell them that the answer is proprietary and they'd need to hire me as a consultant (Social Media Guru!) for me to disclose my secret process.

Well, the truth of the matter is that it has taken me a long time to figure out a way to balance the flood of information that comes in everyday and making sure that it doesn't cause me to mess up at my day job, or miss sleeping at night. When you can find that balance, however, you find that there is a wealth of great information out there to peruse. So, we thought we'd see if you'd share some of your tips and tricks of handling all that information and still be able to do your day job… and you didn't disappoint! There are some great perspectives and suggestions of what you can do to strike that balance.

Once you've read the suggestions and implemented few of the tips, scroll on down to see next week's Elephant Post question about the demands of the 2011 legal market and feel free to chime in with your perspective.



Steven B. Levy
Author of Legal Project Management
Author and Consultant

First, isn't that part of your job rather than an in-addition-to, at least if you're in any sort of leadership or strategic role? You need to prioritize it directly, not just do it when you might have time.  Second, I find OneNote an invaluable tool for keeping track of the stuff I want to save -- links, tidbits, excerpts, etc. It's internal organization scheme is very helpful. (I hear Evernote will also do similar stuff, but I've been a happy OneNote user since it was in its first beta.)  Third, this question is tied to the subject of my forthcoming book on productivity in the professional workplace, helping us move from struggling through a tense present into being highly focused in the present tense. Stay tuned...


Mark Gould
KM

Combine a number of habits/techniques:
  1. Remember that you don't have to read it all -- be cool about the fact that you might miss something. If it is good, someone else will spot it for you.  
  2. Cultivate a network (around the world) of like-minded (and unlike-minded) people who can spot things you might miss.  
  3. Find time -- on the train; while the kettle boils; waiting at the school gate -- to dip into the stream. (And just dip -- remember point 1.)  
  4. Use a variety of devices and services, including paper, so that there is always something to dip into when the opportunity arises.


Christopher Hill
Lawyer

Google Reader, streaming the blog to twitter.


Emily Rushing
Competitive Intelligence / Law Librarian

3 concepts help me stay sane, and stay on top of information.
  1. File. File emails, scan and file papers, file projects and notes. Put information where it belongs. It's frequently not a question of how much you absorb or retain, but whether you can find it again when you need it.
  2. Delete! Along those same lines, cut the fat and delete information you don’t need. Clear out emails and files. Unsubscribe from feeds you don't use. Remove content from your facebook feed or LinkedIn page that isn't relevant. Have your own document retention policy . Cultivate, curate and, mostly importantly, weed your garden.  
  3. Discipline. Set tasks and a schedule, and keep them. If  you decide to spend an hour a day reading, then do it and do it every day. If you say you want to tweet or blog once a week, make sure that happens. Don’t throw your conference hand-outs in a pile. Get them scanned and onto your kindle or iPad and give yourself a week to review.  
Of course, this is all much easier if you really like information. Reminds me of a hokey quote from Life's Little Instruction Book. Find a job you like and you add five days to every week. If you like what you're doing, you will find the time. If you set reasonable goals (file, delete and keep to your program), then you too can achieve information nirvana!


John Gillies
KM lawyer

Pretty standard, I'm sure, but I use Google Reader as my RSS feedreader. I use categories for the various feeds, because some are professional and others are personal. That way, if pressed for time, I can just look at the professional ones. I also try to keep the number of feeds to a reasonable number. The trick, of course, is to prune away the ones that I don't read regularly.  Similarly with Twitter, I limit myself to a relatively modest number of people I follow and even at that I don't get over to TweetDeck during the day to read the tweets as regularly as I'd like. That's why I find I'm reading them more on UberSocial on my BB on the subway home.


James Mullan
KM Systems Manager

  1. File everything as soon as you can. I always keep the emails to my inbox to an absolute minimum otherwise you'll just keep re-reading the same emails over and over again.
  2. Turn over the email notification in Outlook - you'll get more done if you're not constantly checking what the really important (email) spam was that just arrived.
  3. If you're really brave turn email off for an hour or two and set the time aside to finish something you've been working on for a while.
  4. Being disciplined is very important, for example I don't usually carry around a notepad and if I do I always transfer tasks to Outlook tasks to avoid having multiple places where I might have written something.
  5. Finally never press the More button on a social media tool!



Sarah Glassmeyer
Academic Law Librarian (for one more month!)

I would be absolutely lost without my Google RSS feed reader, which is one of the few things that I have carefully organized by topic.  I have made that my main professional information stream (although it's also the only way I can stay on top of the the new Netflix instant streaming options as well.)   I check it every morning as I drink my coffee. And other than that? I don't worry about it.   I cut down my twitter follows to either people or things that are entertaining or that I interact with and peek in on that about every 1/2 hour or so.  Since I'm not really following that many people, takes me about 1 minute to do a quick scan of updates.   I think the real secret to sanity is to just accept that you're not going to be able to follow everything that's said and everyone that's saying it, so pick and choose what you're interested in and dedicate a certain time of day to keep up and then move on.


Amy Towell
COO at Docket Navigator

Because I spend several hours a day reading docket sheets during the course of our daily business, information overload is a real possibility.  And that's before I've even glanced at my twitter feed!   To combat the tendency to become overwhelmed by all that text, I follow only tweeters that post content that is highly relevant to my field (patent litigation).  I allow a few exceptions for some comedic relief (Steve Martin and Bill Cosby).   I immediately unfollow people who tweet every couple of seconds every random thought they have.  I follow the best 120 or so patent litigation tweeters I can find.  More than that is hard to keep up with and I start feeling behind.    In reverse,  I follow the same rules.  I blog and tweet every day, but I keep it short and to the point.  I choose one interesting patent litigation court decision each day, and share just that one; one tidbit a reader/follower can take away and add to their daily collection.  It's not overwhelming to anyone, and they know if they want more than that, they can just ask me.


Greg Lambert
Library/Records/SM Juggler

One of the best ways that I monitor Twitter traffic is by using Tweetdeck's column features where I have a column for those I follow that I think are contributing the best information (must reads), a column for news, and a column for my law library peers. I also set up ad hoc columns for searches on topics that I'm interested in at the moment, or for following conference hashtags. I still have my "All" column going, and I glance at it from time to time to see if anything stands out in the crowd. You'd be amazed at how often something of relevance I pick up out of that river of information.


Next Elephant Post
How Has Demand For Your (or your Firm's) Services Changed in 2011?
Projections for 2011 were that the legal market would be stagnant. Are you finding those predictions to be true? Are you seeing an increase, decrease, or flat demand for the services you provide for your firm? Are you seeing changes in what is being asked of you by people within your firm as well as changes in what clients are demanding of your firm?

Let us know if you think we are finally pulling out of the quagmire that the recession has put the legal industry or if we should be hunkering down for a long, hard slog... or, is there something else happening that we should  be ready for? Fill out the form below and give us your perspective. Check back in next Thursday to see what everyone has to share.




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