How to Filter Your Reading Material

Alyssa Gregory

There is so much information today; information overload is just becoming the way of the world. I would bet that somewhere on your computer, in your email, or filed somewhere, you have a number of items that are waiting for your attention.

Eliminating information overload isn’t always the solution, though. You can achieve the same end — protect your time and absorb only the most important information — by filtering. If you have a system that allows you to scan and make quick decisions on reading material, you can focus your attention only on the highest priority data and take less time doing it.

Here are a few ways to filter your reading material, whether it’s email in your inbox, posts in your RSS reader, or links you bookmarked for later reading.

Run a Keyword Search

Many of us have rolling lists of reading material that constantly accumulates. Doing a keyword search can be an effective way to find specific information on a specific topic quickly. Even if you do a broad search, narrowing down the options can make it easier for you to scan and make quick decisions on whether or not something is worth reading.

Use Tags

You can create a system through sorting or tags that automatically puts similar information in groups, applying a filter on incoming reading material as it hits. You can then focus on a specific tag or category at a time, which can be more productive than jumping around to different types of information and having to reset your mind each time.

Consider the Source

It is likely that your reading material comes from a number of different places. Consider which of the sources are most important, which information carries the most weight, and start there.

Focus on Your Needs

You don’t want to waste time dealing with distractions if you’re looking for an answer to a question or are interested in reading only one specific type of information. Be clear on what information you want, and quickly analyze each piece of information to decide if it’s going to help fulfill your immediate needs.

Make it Time-Based

Very few of us have unlimited time to go through the queue of reading material waiting for us; that’s why it has accumulated. If you’re not looking for specific information and simply want to scan and get rid of some of the bulk, give yourself a set amount of time and stick to it. Tackling the backlog in short bursts can be a productive way to scan and filter information.

How do you manage incoming and accumulated reading material so you capture what you need to know and avoid wasting time on everything else?

Image credit: datarec