Sidestep information overwhelm by cultivating a “personal infrastructure”​

Chuck Frey
3 min readAug 31, 2021

Learn how Herbert Lui’s elegantly simple concept can help you reduce stress and increase focus!

We’re all overwhelmed by information overload. It causes a kind of paralysis, impeding our ability to see things clearly, brainstorm effectively, plan intelligently and take action decisively. In short, it’s a complex challenge that isn’t easily solved.

Tools like personal knowledge managers and mind mapping are helpful, but they’re not complete solutions on their own. What’s needed is a higher-level way of thinking about personal productivity and effectiveness — like Herbert Lui’s elegant “personal infrastructure” concept.

What is personal infrastructure?

Personal infrastructure is anything that makes unpleasant tasks in your work and life:

  • More fun (like a Dyson does for vacuums)
  • Easier to do (requiring less personal/emotional motivation)
  • Completely automated (so you don’t even need to consider it!)

Some of it is based on intelligent use of tools that save time and mental energy. An excellent example is a digital note-taking system where you can record your thoughts, ideas and inspirations.

Other aspects of personal infrastructure can be habits or practices — such as using the first hour of your work day to cultivate ideas, instead of habitually checking email. Taking a walk each evening for exercise and uninterrupted “think time” is another common example.

Create systems to streamline your work

Another key element of Lui’s concept of personal infrastructure is working ON your work instead of just IN it.

“That means recruiting, building processes, and making things that can operate without you doing it yourself,” he explains.

Strategies that fall into this category include:

  • Creating time-saving templates for repetitive emails or writing tasks
  • Setting up systems that enable information to find you — instead of you needing to seek it out (Google Alerts and newsreaders are excellent examples)

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Chuck Frey

Thought leader in mind mapping, visual thinking and creativity for 15+ years. Relentless explorer, learner and dot-collector. I help you elevate your thinking.