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October 3, 2010 / Mike Biggs

Information overload, when do I stop the flow of incoming information and start pumping out my ideas?

I have many ideas. Some of them small and some of them quite large. To explain most of them, some contemplation and or support information is required.

As part of my ongoing thinkingfeedback process, I subscribe to a number of websites and twitter feeds that are of relevance. In my quest to clarify, support, dispute or converse my ideas, turning them into useful information for my readers, I find I am constantly reading, and not doing much writing.

I do sometimes get caught up with frivolous things like many of the posts on the very interesting boing boing blog, and irrelevant twitter posts, but broadly speaking I have whittled my incoming list to core academic interests. And yet, I am still struggling to balance the incoming with the outgoing to a point that I am satisfied.

In fact, I am finding that due to the long list of reading I have set for myself, and the limited amount of time I have to read them all, I am re-tweeting, or sharing in some other fashion those articles which I have merely skimmed and conceptually endorsed. I DO plan to go back and read them at length and fully explore the multiple ideas that I have identified in the, but somehow the onslaught of new incoming reading keeps pushing the list longer and longer leaving no time for review, and even less time for new reading.

Is there a  balance between absorbing enough incoming information and opinion, either by subscription, or by active research, and the ultimate goal of interpretation and application to the ideas and interests that I wish to write about. Can I measure the two and apply a ratio that will help to maintain a useful level of productivity?

At first thought I would suggest a ration of 2:1 [2x incoming:1 x outgoing]. This conceptually allows for two sources to be used in checking and developing one outgoing idea. This seems strict but fair, based on what I would call a value perspective to the issue.

If I were to use time as a commodity for setting the ration, instead of value, I could probably afford about 4:1, which would allow for an increase in useful input and research, but could possibly be eaten up by less important drivel as often happens.

I could also set my ratio by way of priority lists. In this scenario, I would create a list that includes of ideas to be addressed, posts to write, chapters of my book to draft, idea templates to design, etc. Then I would devise a frequency that I wish to roll out this list of content, and the system will sort itself out with a resulting ration of who knows what… This system sounds pretty good to me, I might implement it today.

To date I do have a number of blog posts and pages in draft format as a reminder to finish them and publish them. I also have an ever-growing list of bigger ideas which include start-up ideas, website ideas, blog posts, and other assorted crazies. This list could do with some categorizing, but the biggest issue is allocation of time.

So back to the beginning. The issue is a matter of where you start. The genesis of why you are taking in the information in the first place, dictates whether it should be taken before or after other things. So in the case that broad research is being completed in aid of a particular article or idea, then it should be done as a secondary, alternatively if you are looking for inspiration, or taking the social temperature to which you will then respond, then it should be the primary.

Any thoughts or suggestions on managing the incoming / outgoing bandwidth?


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