Avoiding Information Overload

One of the first things I discovered when I began reading design blogs was the sheer amount of information. The amount of resources out there is nearly staggering. And really, if you think about it, the same is true all over the Internet.

When I started designing and exploring the Internet for relevant information, I was a crazy pack rat. I swear I saved everything I came across. It was all completely organized, but there was just so much of it that it might as well have been a giant mass of information. Whenever I needed to find something, it was nearly impossible to find it. If I did find it, half the time the article was a year old and out of date or I just too advanced for it.

My biggest issue came when I was learning the ins and outs of Adobe Illustrator. I searched the Internet for tutorials, organized those tutorials into skill levels, and then just started at the beginning. I got through about 20 tutorials before I was ready for something different, something harder. And then I'd get distracted. And then I just stopped using tutorials all together. Incoming jobs and work experience took care of the learning. I finally dumped almost all of the Illustrator links that I'd collected - about 4 years after I began collecting. All that time, just wasted.

Since then, I've learned some very important lessons about collecting knowledge from the Internet. 

Know What You're Looking For
Searching "contracts" yields 254,000,000 results. Searching "graphic design contracts" yields 42,400,000 results. Searching "freelance graphic design contracts" yields 1,180,000 results. While that's still a ridiculously large amount of options, I'd take 1,180,000 over 254,000,000 any day. Plus, I'd wager that that last search phrase will yield results that are much closer to what I'm actually looking for. Don't just take a shot in the dark.

Don't Waste Your Time
I learned quickly what makes a good, useful website and what doesn't. Frankly, in the design community, if the site isn't pleasing to the eye, I won't read it. If it looks like it hasn't been updated since 1999, I won't read it. If ads are overwhelming and largely unrelated to design and/or development, I won't read it. It's very much like judging a book by its cover (I do that, too).

Resist Peer Pressure
Just because the website is popular, has 100,000 RSS followers, and boasts 500 comments per post, does not mean you have to read it. Just because it's the popular kid of the design community doesn't mean that you'll learn valuable information. Likewise, just because the site seems unpopular and only has 1 or 2 RSS followers, doesn't mean it's a waste of time. You might have just found a gold mine.

Skim First, Save Later
I can't tell you how many articles I've decided not to save, simply because I skimmed it and found that it was missing something, didn't interest me, or didn't suit my needs. If it contains the same information as another article that I've read or know I've saved, there's no reason for me to save this one, too. If you doubt its usefulness, just get rid of it.

Limit Yourself
You can't read everything. Don't save everything. Keep only things that are relevant and you think you will actually read at some point.

Organize, Organize, Organize
I'm an obsessive organizer, especially when it comes to my computer. Everything has a place and I'm damn well gonna put it there.  I have a folder for articles and within that folder, more folders. Each one is the topic - "Business," "Pricing," "Print Projects," "Customer Service," etc. I have a separate folder for each Adobe program and any articles or tutorials dealing exclusively with the program. There's one for Web Design-specific topics, and one for Web Development. This helps me find what I want when I want it. Periodically, I reorganize everything.

Don't be Afraid to Delete
This is a lesson that took me a very long time to learn. If I don't think it's a good resource, just delete it. If I don't think I'll ever need it, delete it. If I start to skim it and I don't find it interesting or useful, stop reading and just delete it. If you keep reading it, you're wasting time. If you keep it in your files, you're wasting space and potential search time in the future.

There is an endless amount of information available on the Internet these days and with it comes a great responsibility. What you do with the knowledge is your choice and your choice alone. I can only guide you. 

Go forth and be knowledgable.