The internet has given us instant access to more information and entertainment than we'd even dreamed would ever exist a few decades ago. On the one hand, we're empowered to accomplished more, faster than ever before.

But there's a downside too. A few days ago, Seth Godin asked, Has the speed shortage been averted?

We certainly had one a decade ago. Communication was moving too slowly, interactions took too long, ideas stumbled along. It used to take four weeks for someone to answer a piece of mail!...

I'm not so sure we have a significant speed shortage any longer...

Get back to me tomorrow, that's fast enough.

The speed shortage has been averted. Now in many ways, we have a speed surplus.

  • Cell phones and instant messaging enable interruptions anywhere, any time.
  • Always-on internet along with RSS feed readers and and automatic email checking provide constant distractions.
  • A gazillion blogs on every subject imaginable offer virtually unlimited choices of information sources.
  • Two gazillion marketers armed with autoresponders offer to fill your inbox faster than you can empty it.
  • An expanding array of social networking sites lure you into their virtual Hotel Californias of games, videos and conversation.

All of these threaten not just to overwhelm your time, but also your voice. So what can you do? Let me offer a few suggestions:

Unsubscribe Ruthlessly

How many mailing lists are you subscribed to, even though you haven't read their emails for months, because you're afraid you'll miss something important?

Guess what. If you stay subscribed, you might miss something important. Like an important message from someone who's emails you do read that gets buried in the pile.

If you never read somebody's messages, unsubscribe. If you do read somebody's messages and never get any real value from them, run, don't walk! Unsubscribe now! (Heck, if you're subscribed to my mailing list, but aren't getting anything out of it, don't worry about hurting my feelings by unsubscribing. Do what's right for you.)

Reader Comment:
Antone Roundy said:
Ha! ...sure I can :-). If I never send you anything you get value from, then unsubscribe from my list. If you do get value from what I send, stay on my list and unsubscribe from any worthless lists that are distracting you from the valuable one...
(join the conversation below)

The same goes for RSS feed subscriptions and people you follow on social networking sites. If they're just consuming time and generating clutter, let 'em go.

Consolidate Your In-Boxes

How many in-boxes do you have? 3 email accounts. Twitter. Facebook. Google+. Your RSS reader. 10 forums. The private message systems on 10 forums. Your help desk. Your phone. Skype. Your mail box...

If you can find ways to funnel content into fewer in-boxes, you'll spend less time checking them.

  • If you have multiple email accounts, either use a desktop email client to fetch all your mail, or have them all forward to one account.
  • Use your RSS feed reader to subscribe to anything with a feed. For example, I use my feed reader to subscribe to Twitter, my help desk, several forums, a few local Craigslist categories, and more.
  • If you can't consolidate it and there's a viable alternative that can be consolidated, shut it down. For example, if you run a forum that enables members to email each other (without revealing email addresses), turn off the private messaging feature. Yeah, some people won't like it. But it's redundant. For everyone on the forum.

Turn Off Automatic Notifications

For anything that's not highly time sensitive, turn off automatic checking and notification. Check your email, for example, on your own schedule -- not the instant a new message arrives.

Use Non-Interrupting Communication Methods

If you can accomplish the same thing with a text message or an email, use email. Not only will you be less likely to interrupt the person you're sending to, but they'll be less likely to interrupt you with their reply.

Use Efficient Communication Methods

Which takes more time: a conversion via text message or a voice conversation? Honestly, I don't understand why people have such a hard time placing calls these days. If a conversation can't wait long enough to be done via email, why slow it down using text messaging? (Of course, for one-off messages or brief exchanges, text messaging can be better since it's less intrusive.)

I'll address ways to avoid having your voice drowned out in the deluge of information that your prospects and customers are drowning in tomorrow. For now, please share any other tips you have for avoiding information overload in the comments.