Here's How to Cure Information Overload

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2016-02-04 Email Print this article Print
Curing Information Overload

The cure for information overload is to shift your efforts away from the action needed to learn a fact and toward the skill of storing and retrieving information.

But what about content that doesn't come in text form? For example, what about data written on paper, whiteboards or napkins? What about faces, places and experiences?

Remember: The goal is to make everything searchable. So how do you make the non-digital things you see every day available for search later?

The solution has two parts. First, you need a very fast way to capture visuals. And second, you need a place where these visuals will be scanned and indexed for later search.

In all my research, the best approach to this problem is to use your smartphone's camera, an app called DO camera and an account on Evernote.

The DO camera app gives you a button that takes a picture with your phone, and then sends it to any of several locations instantly. By setting this up to send pictures to Evernote (one of the default destinations), you can simply take pictures of whiteboards, signs, documents, paperwork, receipts—even computer screens—and they'll instantly show up on Evernote. It will automatically scan these items for the words visible in the pictures. Later, you can search Evernote for any of those words, and you'll find the picture.

DO camera has another benefit: By tapping and holding the button, rather than just pressing it, you have the option to draw doodles or type text on the picture. Then your notes are superimposed on that image.

Another easy technique is to set up Google Photos, which uses artificial intelligence to identify objects in your pictures for searching later on. By installing the app on your phone and enabling the "Back Up & Sync" option in "Settings," every picture you take will be privately uploaded to your Google Photos account in the cloud.

Storage is unlimited, and pictures are free. So you can take pictures of everything you see—every hotel room number, meal, lobby, street, product, event and more. Over time, you'll be able to search for or scan photos to jog your memory as needed.

I also like to capture photos automatically. By using a Narrative Clip 2, which is the new version of a tiny, lightweight camera that attaches to your clothes, you can take pictures constantly at a rate of anywhere between every 10 and every 120 seconds.

The result of wearing this is an ongoing capture of things you see. By reviewing these photos at the end of the day, you can send the photos showing important documents, signs or other word-based photos to Evernote, and download the photos of non-word objects that matter to your phone. There, they'll be automatically scooped up and scanned by Google Photos.

Note that these specific techniques and tools are just the examples that I've found most useful.

What's important is to think about information and data not as something you need to learn, but rather as something that you need to make searchable for access later on.

And that's how you cure information overload!


Mike Elgan, a Baseline contributor, is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger.


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