By John Pederson

Congratulations! You are now following 500+ people on Twitter, have an RSS reader with 1000+ unread items, and feel a bit guilty that you never really made it around to using Diigo. No doubt you are beginning to feel a bit numb, like Lois.

Family Guy – Lois – Mommy

“I don’t have enough time in the day!” is the wrong answer.

There comes a point where the difference between sink or surf involves getting serious about managing your attention. Every few months I spend a few hours consciously considering who I’m following, what I’m watching, how I’m getting information, and why it’s important to me. Let me share three tips I use frequently to manage my “attention” online.

  • Use the “Mark All as Read” button. If you constantly bump up against 1000+ unread items in a program like Google Reader, there’s significant guilt building up unconsciously that’s allowing a tool to mess with your attention.
  • Unfollow everybody on Twitter. Make a list of those you can remember in your mind and follow them back. Take a look at who they are following and follow them. Not only are you managing your attention by pruning the number of Twitter updates, you will end up finding a handful of new voices each time you go through this exercise. (There’s one drawback. Each time I do this the folks I “refollow” get the message that I’m a “new” follower which sometimes triggers awkward social situations. Oh well.)
  • In both email and your RSS reader, take time to make sure information is coming from people, not websites or usernames. I’ll pick on Will Richardson as an example. Subscribing to his blog in an RSS reader shows up as Weblogg-ed and receiving email from him arrives in my inbox with the same tag. I manually rename all RSS feeds based on the authors first and last name. I’ll also spend the time to keep a clean address book so that email is from people, not usernames.

Technology is an efficient way to connect things to things and people to things.  You are different.  Your intent is to connect to people, not things.  Take control of the technology and manage your attention on the front end instead of letting it manage you.

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