Avoiding information overload

09 May
May 9, 2013

Personal information management is becoming a real issue!  According to an article I read recently , it’s been estimated that during 2013 approximately 507 billion – yes, BILLION – email messages will be sent each day.  That’s one email every 0.00000035 seconds!  Add that to the wave of tweets, Facebook updates, blogs and so on and there’s a real chance that we could all be drowning in a sea of information overload – unless, that is, we decide to do something about it.


According to the legendary slideshow “Shift Happens”, originally created by Karl Fisch, it’s estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.  Fisch also suggests that there are more texts sent each day than the entire population of the planet.

Given this overwhelming tsunami of information we all need to adopt our own strategies in order to cope, survive and, most importantly, make sense of it all.

A while back I was interacting via Twitter with the backchannel of a conference and happened to mention a technique I used to help people with their time management.  This technique received some positive feedback so I thought I would share it in this week’s post.

The technique is called GUTS.  That’s:

  • Give it away
  • Use it
  • Trade it, or
  • Sling it

Here’s how it could work for you.

Give it away

As an expert in your own field you’ll immediately recognise information that you want to put on Facebook, tweet, or blog about.  This is information that you give away.

Giving information away – as long as it’s quality and appropriate information – is a great way of extending your network and building credibility.

Use it

There’ll also be information that you’ll want to keep for later.  Perhaps it’s some great research, a wonderful infographic or some facts that you may use in a presentation or report.  This is information that you’ll use as part of your professional life.

Trade it

Some information that you come across will have a real value to others in your network – not as some general “look at this”, but of lasting value to others.  Perhaps it’s a report on the latest learning management systems (LMS) that, although not of immediate use to you, is something that you feel could be traded.

You can do this by saying: “Here’s a great report on the state of play in the LMS market. Feel free to use it – but I’d really appreciate anything you have on the topic of employee engagement.”

Not everyone will rush to send you something in return but some will and you’ll therefore benefit from the trade.

Sling it

Not much more to add here, because everything else should be deleted – you just sling it.  That’s it!


In the information storm that is the world in which we live, try using the GUTS technique which can help you effectively manage the plethora of data which comes through your inbox every day.

Call to action

Go on – give it a go!  Try using GUTS to manage your information and do let me know how you get on.

Tags: , , , , , ,
2 replies
  1. Arjen ter Hoeve says:

    Thank you Jonathan for the GUTS technique. Very smart and practical.

    I am more and more amazed everyday by the number of people who experience “information stress”. Often, the same people who experience this are the ones who accomplish the least because they are micromanaging every little information stream possible.

    Why is it that we should or want to stay connected all the time you think? It almost looks like we feel we are losing control over our world if we don’t…

    I would say FOCUS on a the really important things and have some GUTS (I know I will).

    Thanks again!

  2. Jonathan Kettleborough says:

    Hi Arjen,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree with your approach regarding the need to FOCUS on the really important things. For this I always look at what’s VITAL for me to achieve, There will always be urgent things and important things but the VITAL ones get my time.

    As to your question – I’m not sure why some people want to stay connected all the time – perhaps they are scared to miss a conversation – rather like someone who’s trying to take part in every conversation at a party!

    Glad GUTS made sense to you.

    Best wishes.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply to Arjen ter Hoeve Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *