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Information is not created equal Featured

9:35am EDT July 22, 2002
If you're getting tired of search engines that return 20,000 hits and the waves of "critical information" delivered to you by e-mail, voice mail, faxes, pagers, cell phone and interoffice mail every day, you're not alone. But allowing the reality of the connected world to wear you down is not the answer.

Instead, Alan Schlein, the author of "Find it Online: The Complete Guide to Online Research," urges execs to use a sort of Information Triage to get organized and selective about which messages they really need in order to stay informed and make good decisions.

"Generally, people are worried that they will miss something if they don't see absolutely everything before making a decision," explains Schlein. "To manage information overload effectively, you use an Information Triage strategy. Doctors in emergency rooms decide what patient needs immediate attention. They don't fix a broken finger before attending to a heart attack just because the broken finger came first."

So how do you determine what's important with the overwhelming amount of information available just a few keystrokes away? Schlein offers five rules for handling information overload.

Get rid of what you don't need

Ditch your Yahoo! search engine in favor of a specialty portal, which provides information on particular topics and accurately filters out irrelevant information.

Personalize your search tools

Personalization of search engines lets you use keywords and personal preferences, allowing the search tools to follow your search patterns and adapt to your needs as they learn more about you. One great example is www.hotlinks.com, which imports bookmark collections and combines them. Another is a new browser add-on called Kenjin (www.kenjin.com), which searches not only the Web but also what is on your hard drive or in your corporate library.

Learn to manage your e-mail

The person who writes your paycheck belongs at the top of your e-mail priority list, not the buddy who sends you new jokes every morning. Also, delegate or forward e-mail messages that shouldn't have been sent to you in the first place. Finally, eliminate the volume of new e-mail by filtering messages as they come in, or use a program like Eudora Pro or Outlook '98 that automatically routes your mail into folders.

Don't wait on demanding downloads

Some shareware programs allow your browser to schedule large file downloads when you're away. Check out CNET (www.cnet.com) and ZDNET (www.zdnet.com) for software that will allow you to do this regardless of whether you have a PC or Macintosh computer.

Try a unified messenger

For about $200, you can buy a Unified Messenger from Octel, a division of Lucent Technologies. It allows you to check your electronic messages while on the road without a laptop computer. A computer-generated voice reads e-mail messages and faxes to you. How to reach: Facts on Demand Press, (800) 929-3811

Jim Vickers (jvickers@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor SBN.