FM Frequency: TMI—Too Much Information

By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the August 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Typically, this column attempts to offer a literary cocktail that combines a touch of humor with a dash of relevant information in an informal discussion of a topic near and dear to the hearts of facilities professionals. This month is slightly different. I’m shooting up a flare and asking for advice on a topic that’s important to everyone in this profession.

What is the best way to stay on top of news about your customers and their businesses? Where do you obtain information relevant to the management of facilities, learn about developing technology and best practices among peers, and still keep up with day to day schedules and responsibilities?

It goes without saying that TFM is the best monthly publication in our business (it’s a shameless plug, but it’s true!), and reading it cover to cover each month is a great investment in our careers. But with so many other sources of information at our disposal 24 hours a day, we could probably spend 80% of our time digesting information and without taking it all in.

Think about it. We have access to several monthly trade journals, countless Web sites, weekly news magazines, 24 hour news outlets, daily newspapers, regional and national business journals, trade organization meetings and newsletters, community outreach events, annual trade group conventions, and hundreds of suppliers flooding us with information about the best and brightest and newest products. Is it any wonder I’m slightly overwhelmed as a result of this information overload?

This is why I’m asking for advice. Let me share with you my current practices and maybe you can critique what I’m doing or let me know if you have found a better way to get to the most essential information.

  • I read the local newspaper almost every morning. Charlotte, NC is not a small town, so I think the paper offers fairly in-depth coverage of local and international news. During this daily ritual (in addition to keeping up with “Dilbert” and my favorite sports teams), I look for news relevant to our industry in general and my customers’ businesses specifically.
  • Once a week, I receive an automatic e-mail business update from my local paper. I scan it for any relevant articles I might have missed.
  • We receive a local business journal at our office (I think it’s delivered twice a month). I probably only scan every other issue for local news or relevant information.
  • About three days a week, I catch the TV news. This usually consists of 30 to 40 minutes of national cable news while I’m at the gym.
  • About three days a week, I hear 15 to 20 minutes of talk radio on the way to or from work (or at lunch time). I’m not a talk radio “junkie,” but I enjoy hearing strangers yell at each other.
  • Each month, I read TFM cover to cover and clip relevant articles or advertisements to circulate in the office or to customers. I also receive three to five other trade journals/magazines that typically stack up in my office with my good intentions of reading the important articles therein.
  • I try to attend at least one local trade group meeting per month and one convention a year.
  • I recently subscribed to a news/financial publication, and I think it comes out every other week. These are also stacking up at home with more good intentions about reading them.
  • About once a day, I check a favorite Web site for shocking news or international gossip. (I’m not one to promote freely, so if you want to know which one I like, drop me a note.)
  • At the end of most days, I check my personal e-mail account and receive wonderful notes from TFM readers, deadline warnings from the TFM editor, and countless hilarious news articles and cartoons from old friends who obviously have far too much free time at work. This is also my outlet for colorful political debate among family and friends with opinions all over the spectrum. My brutally honest participation in this “politically incorrect” forum has probably eliminated me from ever seeking a high public office.

I suppose some of the time I spend each evening reading silly e-mails or forwarding friends and family cartoons could be better spent, but I think everyone needs time to unwind and have a little fun! In fact, when I’m on vacation or out of town for a few days, I typically tune out the news completely and find that I’m much less stressed and more content.

So, what do you think about my routine? Am I even close to being connected? Do you have a better way of keeping up to date? Have you found some type of service that filters the news for you and sends you what you want to see? Are your stacks of magazines, mail, and good intentions becoming dangerous structural or egress hazards in your workplace?

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.