Today we are constantly bombarded with information. It’s literally at our fingertips with smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and laptops. And maybe it’s just me, but I recently noticed a lot more self-help and advice articles circulating the web.

As a recent college grad I find some of these helpful, like “5 Ways To Break Up Your Work Day” by one of my favorite bloggers, Classy Career Girl.  Others such as “Eight Ways Goofing Off Can Make You More Productive,” however, seem counterproductive. I support short breaks to stay alert and productive, but the concept of ‘goofing off’ just doesn’t sit well with me.

I used to think I could never get enough advice. Career-building tips, networking advice, how to write an essay – I wanted to take it all in and somehow remember it all. Now I wonder: does all of this advice actually help? How do you distinguish one set of interview or resume improvement tips on Forbes from other tips on Businessweek? Personally, I find it overwhelming, but I’ve learned some tricks to handle this overload of advice.

1. Everybody is different.

I know it’s obvious, but no one functions the same. There is no ‘right way’ and certainly more than eight ways to ‘goof off’ at work. Your co-worker may believe that “The Five Hallmarks of Highly Respected Achievers” are the only five characteristics successful people have, while you actually think that “The Top 10 Attributes of a Leader” is more accurate. Both articles probably have some truth to them, but there is definitely room for debate.

2. Advice is only useful when you make it your own.

For those of you who don’t remember, I wrote about The Four Agreements in my last blog. To some, this book may seem like just another self-help book, but I applied its lessons to me. The most meaningful advice grows with you. In this case, The Four Agreements take on a different meaning every time I revisit the book, and I’m sure that will continue as I get older.

3. Monkey see, monkey do.

So many of my habits and ways that I strive to become a happier, more productive individual have come from observing those I admire. Especially in the workplace, I’ve found that asking others how they manage their time and stay productive is much more effective than searching the web for tips that don’t actually help me develop concrete plans of action.

Everything must be read with a critical eye. Maybe my approach to reading and analytical habits are just repercussions of having studied liberal arts, but it can be all too easy to believe that every advice article can help us solve our problems. I firmly believe that you’ll know when that article in the headlines of LinkedIn Today will actually help and inspire you. Put very simply: if you can relate to it and envision it working for you, then it’s useful. You will remember it for years to come, commit to following it, and hopefully share its meaning with others.


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