I have been using Evernote for over three years and I’ve been really enjoying it. However, I did something early on that I seriously regret now, and that is collecting weblinks. I found myself enjoying all these little websites and these useful articles, and some amusing pictures and so on and so forth and couldn’t bear to let them go. Soon enough, I found myself stuck with hundreds of site links and over half my free Evernote account used up.
I might have a problem with packrat mentality but you don’t have to have that to be dealing with information overload. You take a look at a site like Project Gutenberg, YouTube, or Salon archives and you can get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information available.
You will need to filter information, and you will find no lack of advice on how to this online (of course). At the very basic level, you filter based on separating what you need from what you want, prioritize appropriately, and then choose to dispose or archive. However, filtering also requires a leap of faith that you will be able to find whatever information you need whenever you need it online. To be truthful this is not always the case, and in the end, you’ll simply have to accept that you can’t retain everything. If it does give you solace, you should know that this does not mean that the information itself is lost.
Fortunately, this connectedness we have with information benefits the advance of information itself. As David Weinberger discusses in “Too Big To Know“, facts themselves have evolved from the traditional facts, which would presumably be accumulated and stored to eventually form a complete picture of the world, to networked facts, where we view and recognize the connections between these facts, as well as the differences between them.
As of now, I’m preoccupied with cleaning out my Evernote, but I only do it when I can. Sensibly enough, I put my real life priorities first, and slowly sort though my links to figure out which of them I will need and which are disposable. I retain control of the information I have, but more importantly, I’ve regained control of how I process information, how I react to it emotionally and how to deal with it so I can live my life.
Here‘s a Lifehacker article on how to deal with information overload, and if you have the time, I’ve embedded below Clay Shirky’s twentythree minute talk on the topic, from Web 2.0 Expo three years ago.