07/08/2013 12:12 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2013

Content Overload


Information - or shall we now say "content" - comes to us fast and furious, 24/7. The inbox is bursting at the seams. Facebook entries create pages and pages. Tweets are non-stop. Don't forget your LinkedIn posts. How about Pinterest and a plethora of others? These are all avenues that have opened up so we can be "out there," perpetually connected. I would mention blogging as well, but I'll save that for another day.

Why do we participate in so many of these platforms? I suggest it comes from a sense of not wanting to be left out. Not wanting to miss out on anything new. Who wants to be the one who says "Gee, no I didn't see that." It's the "if you're not current you're nowhere," state of mind.

Part of the phenomenon is that there is always a race to the newest. In the early days of television it first became important just to have a television set and then to have a bigger and bigger one. Black and white, mind you. Along came color television and the race began anew. Was your family going to get one, and how soon? It was really important! Once again, no one wanted to be left out or, God forbid, last.

Let's stick with the TV analogy for a moment. Since the advent of cable, some would say that today's programming is run of the mill and lacks the flair of the Network days when shows were events that whole families made sure they did not miss. That's not to say that some nuggets cannot be found on the million or so cable outlets, but they just don't rise to the stature of Gunsmoke, Perry Mason or the Carol Burnett Show. Even though there were fewer shows, you still had to pick and choose which ones you were going to watch, after all, you couldn't watch them all and there was no DVR.

So okay, we are all "out there" now. Reading, linking, posting, following, tweeting, clicking and generally connecting all over the place. The real question is how to curb it; how to lessen the stress of the mindset that draws us back to our keyboards, tablets or smart phones over and over.

Obviously you cannot be everywhere all the time, no matter how many feeds you have coming in. You have to determine how you will manage your participation. Just to show that I am not lecturing here, just observing, I will admit that I am drawn quite often to see what has come in to Facebook and LinkedIn. That sounds fairly innocuous but I have two of each - personal and business - and my LinkedIn groups number over thirty. If I am to get any work done - real work... you know the stuff that pays the bills - or have a life, I have had to limit the number of trips I take to check the activity. I have found that twice a day is more than sufficient. Okay, three if I keep the visits brief. My schedule is 1) with my morning coffee, 2) at lunch time and 3) right after dinner. More than that is intrusive, unnecessary and unproductive.

Notice I haven't mentioned emails. The reason is that so many of us actually work in an e-mail world and email is a necessary function of our business. My work e-mails number 100+ on a regular day. They must be attended to as part of my job and the business they represent. Because of that, I have gotten pretty good with the delete key and clear lots of the "content" you send me which is unimportant or uninteresting to me.

I cannot and will not be "out there" to such an extent that I become a caricature. Your online time must be managed just the same as any other area of work or life. And, truly I don't care to see pictures of what you had for dinner last night.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sach's 10,000 Small Businesses program. The Goldman Sachs Foundation is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.