Personal Information Management

The field of Personal Information Management is concerned about how people manage the information which they receive, use, require and pass on to others in the course of their work and non-work activities. It has grown in importance in recent years because of the massive increase in:

  • the number and type of sources of information
  • the volume of information to be filtered, prioritised, analysed, read and understood, evaluated, retrieved, remembered, summarised, categorised, filed away and passed on to others.

Expectations have also increased. Work colleagues, employers, and even friends expect to be kept informed by you, and to have important information passed on in a timely fashion. The Internet has facilitated not just the development of vast repositories of information, but also vehicles for rapid dissemination and sharing of all kinds of information via e-mail, blogs, and the multiple forms of social media (such as facebook, linked-in, Myspace, twitter etc.)

Additionaly, the telephone has become mobile, and not only are people accessible when not at their desks, they are also accessible anytime and any place. They can expect not only to have to deal with telephone calls, but also to be interrupted by incoming text messages, some of which will require action and a reply.

While the field of Information Management is concerned with managing information in general, and by organisations in particular, the Personal Information Management is focused on how an individual can cope with all of the above information sources and pressures and be effective.

Personal Information Management Tools

Various tools and techniques have been developed to assist individuals to prioritise information, and to ensure that they have the right information in the right place at the right time. That information has to be of sufficient quality and completeness in order for the individuals to fulfill their current task.

These tools included diaries, address books, to-do lists, filing systems etc. While many of these are paper-based tools, the advent of the personal computer, the hand-held organiser or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and the integration of mobile phone, PDA and web browser have opened up many other software-based tools.

Personal Information Management Software

Many software products have been developed which support personal information management. These applications can automate many of the tasks associated with filing and retrieval. People can spend a lot of time looking for information that they have seen before, but can't remember exactly where, but they need it again now. The software-based personal information management tools can help with organising information (e.g. some sort of hierarchical filing system), tagging (via keywords for example), and indexing. At retrieval time, the user can browse the hierarchy, or pull out information by keyword or by some kind of text search.

Advanced tools can work with information in many forms and from many different sources (web, e-mail, tasks, notes, local files). They can also allow the user to build connections or relationship links between items of information in a network fashion.