My answer from Quora to What are some strategies for dealing with information overload?
- Ruthlessly cull your inbound: this is the first step to creating better signal to noise for any information gathering. As humans, we can only process so much information with any level of intelligence.
- Follow intelligent filters: When I first jumped into social web reading/writing I wrote a short post on super human filters. I still rely on the concepts in that post to handle the flood of data available. "You are what you eat" holds true for information consumption
- Be realistic about batch bookmarking: in the same way you should slice down your inbound, you should discipline yourself with bookmarks. I rely on Instapaper to capture interesting articles and documents while social browsing. If I'm not careful I can create an unsustainable backlog of material to process.
- Zero inbox: if you use your email as a buffer or task list assistant you should filter and redirect everything that doesn't require immediate responses into appropriate subcategories. I rely heavily on filtering in gmail and only a small fraction of my inbound email sits idle in my inbox. If it's a task I want to come back to when I have time, I'll apply a generic task list label and remove it from my pipeline.
- Set aside time for active participation/practice: removing social web activity as a distraction is essential to improving productivity and time efficiency. Set aside time to work through demos, video screen casts and finish the exercises. Build and struggle to understand first, then follow up with intelligent questions on the right channels (IRC, blogs, twitter, Quora).
- Spend more time with deeper reading/communication: You won't get much smarter by reading thousands of 200 character excerpts about a topic. If you want real technical chops in any profession you're going to have pair active learning by practice with deeper reading. Find the best ebooks/pdfs/texts/journals in your area and set aside time to read them without distractions. In addition it's hard to beat dedicated conversations with professional trendsetters in your field.
Attention and participation are your most valuable resources. Guard them well, and you'll be able to generously give them to folks that will appreciate and value your time