Monday, April 30, 2007

Reducing your digital foot print

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2007 GEL conference and listen to Mark Hurst describe the concepts behind his new book, "Bit Literacy." Mark's essential concept is that knowing how to operate a computer application is one form of intelligence and knowing when to use an application is another form of intelligence. His most striking observation is that users are using their email inboxes as all purpose tools -- a task they were not intended for or well suited to perform. He recommends that users process the messages that come in every day and go home with the inbox having been completely emptied. This does not mean that everything in the messages has been done, but rather that the information in the messages have been processed. Processing means that assignments are put in a task list and events are put in a calendar, etc.

At first the concepts seemed too simple for the complex issues of information overload, but after reading his book and trying out some of his concepts -- I'm still working on other areas -- I've become convinced that his ideas workable. They may not be pleasant but I could not come up with a solution to information overload that was less unpleasant.

While I have always been fairly good at handling my email, I have to say that Mark's zero inbox solution is a real help. I know each morning that what's in my inbox needs to be dealt with and when there is no more messages in the inbox, that I'm done. The effect is less stress and greater effectiveness. Just think of how many times you look at old emails in the inbox and have to think what they are and if you need to do something about them. I had not realized what a hidden drain that was until now.

Why am I posting this on a blog dedicated to education? Well, first if makes life more productive and it even reduce the load on your email and file servers. Mark also has some very good recommendations regarding file names and folder structures. If you replace "projects" with "classes" his observations make a lot of sense.

This book is certainly worth a read.


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