In a recent post, I discussed how professional success in the Intelligence Age will demand more than off-the-shelf knowledge and how strengthening the diversity, relevance and application of sought-after skill sets can help you safeguard your career survival. In a business world where many norms are being upended, there’s one truth that’ll never be overturned—knowledge is power.

The million dollar question is this: How do you stay informed and get ahead without losing your mind? We find ourselves drowning in information and content overload. Professionals worry about it. Companies worry about it. And business analysts regularly discuss and introduce even more content about it.

I believe the question of information overload is simpler than many realize…but simple doesn’t mean easy. Information intake should be both purposeful and personalized. Here are a few guide posts to help you manage the information flood, maximize your knowledge and protect your sanity.

  1. Clear off your coffee table; clean out your inbox—once and for all. If you have piles of unread books and magazines gathering dust around the house, it’s time to move them out. Same for digital clutter in your inbox. Subscriptions – either print or digital – that inevitably end up in the recycling or electronic trash are not only a waste of money, they’re a waste of time and emotional energy.
  2. Identify your ideal methods for information intake. Newsfeeds during lunch? Books on the train? Podcasts while running? Magazines on the couch? Maybe all of the above. Think about where, when and how you’re most receptive to learning and tailor a good portion of your information intake to the methods that work best for you. Notice the qualifier? Not all topics come packaged just the way we like. Whatever your preferences, recognize that comprehensive learning requires, in part, being open to broad exposure. Challenge yourself to pursue new ways of learning.
  3. Be intentional with the topics you invite in. Those who know me, know I’m an info junkie. Be it through books, blogs, pubs or social feeds, my interests are wide-ranging. I’m drawn to innovators and revolutionary business minds. I’m interested in disruptors, technology and global markets, and I immerse myself in those topics. I also follow artists, musicians, politicians as well as people I simply find entertaining. That said, for as much as I enjoy variety, I’m careful to make time for the subjects that truly interest me and the thought leaders who genuinely matter. Identify the themes most important to you and relevant to your goals. Start there.

How do you avoid information overload, while remaining receptive to new ideas and knowledge?

Before you buy, sign-up, subscribe or follow, consider the suggestions above. Be purposeful with your time and energy. Be intentional in your commitment to seeking out a cross-section of topics, sources and methods. Safeguarding your professional future begins with expanding your current knowledge base, and deciphering relevant materials from shiny distractions helps you focus on what really matters.

What guardrails do you have in place, helping you stay informed without getting lost in the maze? I invite you to share your tips and techniques.