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Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload
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Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  2,557 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Bit Literacy offers a solution to email overload, media overload, and other kinds of information overload. The daily flood of e-mail, multiple todo lists, a cluttered desktop, documents in various file formats, and the constant distraction of cell phones are all problems that people desperately need help with. More than a quick fix or another "how-to" guide, Bit Literacy o ...more
Kindle Edition, 193 pages
Published June 15th 2007 by Good Experience Press
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  2,557 ratings  ·  128 reviews

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James Cridland
This is almost a self-help book for those of us who have to deal with far too many emails and other internet-related demands on our time. A dry and rather OCD read at times, the book goes into a lot of interesting detail about how much more productive we could be if we tame the “bits”. A lot of our lives is spent fiddling around with emails, rather than actually getting on with things; and this book, in its opening chapters, makes a strong argument for pointing out the benefits of using technolo ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Long and winded tale about what essentially is GTD with tons of awfully specific implementation tips. On other hand, it might be that I'm absolutely not the intended audience ...more
This book is ten years old but the author wrote very carefully so that it wouldn't seem dated (he even avoided including screen shots). However, a couple of exceptions: Picasa is no more, and backing up to DVDs and emailing files to yourself at a Hotmail account seems wildly quaint and cumbersome when we now have iCloud and Dropbox. But of course there's always something new arriving.

The author loves Mac products. Not judging. Just saying. And after my cheapo Acer laptop running Windows crashed
Nathan Robinson
I found Hurst’s little book to be most helpful in the chapter on email and prioritizing daily action items/”to do” lists. Keeping the inbox at zero (at least once every workday) and moving the items quickly to the trash, a folder, or a prioritized “to do” list, is one way to reduce the incoming “bits” and work more efficiently in a digitized age. It’s not an earth-shattering new concept, but I’ve found it really helpful already.

The book is more than just email and “to do” lists. Hurst covers way
Mike Gibbs
A decent book about technology with solid principles, but the principles are about as far as the help goes. Bit Literacy assumes that the reader has no experience or background with technology whatsoever. If you are at all familiar with computers, this book will offer minimal actionable advice.

Much of his advice has become less relevant as technology has evolved as well. This isn't necessarily Hurst's fault, just part of the cost of doing business if you write a technology-centric book. One exam
Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: extremely disorganized people
He has a lot of good ideas that work for him, but like any solution, it won't fit all situations. You'll need to find a compromise that works for you.

I don't care for his file system schemes, or his suggestions to use programs like iTunes or iPhoto (probably because I don't like either program and not everything apple makes is solid gold).

I also have some security issues with some of the things he says, such as storing passwords in plain text files. This is a bad idea. Don't do it. His reasons w
Apr 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
the author is so redundant in the beginning - it almost makes you want to throw down the book in exasperation. but it's a quick skim, so you're motivated to stick with it for nuggets of wisdom. i do appreciate his ideas for to-do list and email management - i think those are the best parts of the book. the rest of the book about organizing your use of digital apps wasn't new to me but could be helpful for others. one thing to beware - i tried to look up some of the recommended apps (namely Now U ...more
Jun 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One big idea to take from this: Non-actionable to-do items (like picking up the dry cleaning next week, buying tickets to an event when they go on sale in a couple months, or making sure that so-and-so replied to your email) should be out of sight, out of mind, until they "wake up" when they are actionable. I use for this.

Other ideas:
+ Go on a media diet.
+ Use text-expansion tools.
+ Create keyboard shortcuts.
+ If it takes <2 minutes, do it.
+ Don't use inbox as a to-do list, fili
Emily Leathers
This started interestingly, but by about halfway through was *really* on my nerves. The author continuously spoke condescendingly towards what he called 'techies' (folks who enjoy technology for technology's sake) and as the book went on sounded more and more disparaging of anything that wasn't his own idea. His critiques of other companies or systems was barely (or not at all) disguised. ...more
Apr 02, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, self-help
A short pseudo-self-help book after the GTD (getting things done) fashion.

An even shorter summary: "Clear your inbox: clear your mind."
Andy Gremett
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great techniques for managing email and files.
Lots of common sense applied towards managing daily activities.
Dmytro Chasovskyi
This book is excellent reading for people who either want to increase their productivity or examine the current state of it. I found it useful.
David H.
Apr 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommended to David H. by: Jared Shurin
Shelves: nonfiction
This was an interesting short book featuring Mark Hurst's personal theories and guidelines for productivity when it comes to email overload. I was pretty much following his advice already, but I found Bit Literacy the most useful in its chapters on email, media diet, and general inspiration/reminders for how I handle my systems.

I've been a big fan of David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity for years, and Bit Literacy differs in that he's not focusing on how to do y
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: personal-growth
A nice summary concerning working efficiently. The gist: In the world of bits, information comes at us constantly from every direction. It’s time to get “bit literate” by taking responsibility for the way you engage with bits. By developing sleek organizational systems for your computer use, you can free up your time to get some actual work done.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
Hurst’s advice on managing one’s digital engagement is solid. The only issues could be fixed with an updated version referencing modern software and modes of interaction.

If he does this, perhaps he could also check the areas where he lapses into arrogant posturing and a more-enlightened-than-thou tone.
Ed Barton
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Useful Hacks

Bit literacy is all about managing your electronic environment in ways to save time, save effort and optimize performance. The suggestions in here range from email and to do list organization to using Dvorak keyboards and Apple products. You are likely to pick up at least one improvement in this book. A quick and easy read.
David Birse
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Bits for thought.

I going to start by saying I enjoyed this book. However, it is needing an update for 2021. I have taken away much bits for thought to implement both in my personal and business life.
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A guide to handle computer and smart devices effectively..
Patrick Keenan
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: business
Out of date, but still good advice for people who are trying to get their cluttered inboxes in order
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Pretty much love everything.
David Mann
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Principles are sound, though details outdated at times.

I am interested in personal information management and found this book. Price is hard to beat: $0 on Kindle! The book was published before the tidal waves of mobile devices and social media. As such, some of it has a quaint or nostalgic flavor. Nevertheless the principles of digital organization are helpful and if anything more important and as under appreciated as ever.
Jun 06, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: computers, self-help
I had high hopes for learning to better integrate technology pieces in my live, I was hoping for some innovative solutions to better enhance and improve my productivity and general lifestyle. How to integrate my dekstop with mobile devices, present new, innovative ways that I hadn't considered before. What I found is far from it.

The solutions were simplictic, and while I agreed with some of them, many I do not. All suggestions were offered with a tone of supreme arrogance in a condescending mann
Overview of how to maximize technology.
Tip: inbox zero, delete sent emails, and clean up e-clutter.

1. The goal of bit literacy is to minimize the time you spend getting organized, so as to maximize your State the most important idea first. State the second most important idea second. If there’s a third most important idea, consider whether it needs to be in the message at all. End the message as soon as possible.

2. Time for more important things, like working efficiently and enjoying
Lauren Head
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the questions that I fill out on my report for cj Advertising is "Give one quote from the book that impacted your thought process and describe how." The quote I picked sums up the entire book perfectly, "There is a simple solution to e-mail overload: don’t become overloaded.” While this may sound like a “duh” statement it is something that we let ourselves do over and over. I try to keep my inbox messages to a very minimum of what I am working on currently. If I am goin ...more
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology
This book helped me a great deal when I was trying to organize all the messages scattered around inside my e-mail inbox. The concept of "induction" mentioned in this book was very helpful, and the instructions were clear and easy to follow. By deleting the unnecessary mails in one go, I found everything in the right place in a neat order. Now I can spot the most important messages instantly when I log in my e-mail account, and I won't have to worry about missing mails or neglecting all my to-do ...more
Matt Burgess
Bit Literacy (2007), Mark Hurst
To be free of overload and the problems it causes, users must choose to become bit-literate. -Mark Hurst

Bit literacy is an interesting topic in our modern times of dramatic technological change and information overload. I've noticed how new technologies are often adopted for their novelty without consideration to their practical use or their best use, and I've seen how mis-management of information can cause the most efficient of people to drown. Mark Hurst does an
Nov 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This literally costs no money at all from Amazon (at least as of the other day), so it's really just a matter of whether or not it's worth the time it would take to DL a copy and flip through it, and then eventually read it, if it's worth your while. If you don't shit but sit around all day in your underwear and troll Amazon for inexpensive reads, it's kind of a no-brainer. Your/my time is worth nothing. But if you've got a few dollars in your pocket, maybe you want to spring for something more ...more
Ian Varley
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: practical
This is a solid, entry-level book about how not to suck at computers. The point is well taken, that not sucking at computers is hard, and getting harder as the stream of input grows (i.e. the internet). The stuff that's probably worth your time:

- The focus on Inbox Zero is huge. I've been doing it for years, and people think I'm crazy, so I guess it really needs to be said more. Get to inbox zero and stop running your life out of the worst possible tool (an email inbox).
- Media diet! Stop taki
David Hagmann
Some interesting notes with regard to keeping one's inbox empty. I had about 40-50 e-mails there before reading the book and cleaning them out was satisfying. Moreover, I do think I'm faster at responding to e-mails knowing that I can't just leave them in the inbox.

Readers might find the free service at helpful. I just forward an e-mail that needs to be dealt with at a later time to them using intuitive addresses (e.g. and they will send the e-mail back
Jun 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: software, nonfiction
Mark Hurst is an entrepreneur and consultant on human-factors issues in the digital world. He offers up a plan for dealing with the deluge of digital information, especially email. His main idea: keep your email folders empty, and use a specific type of to-do list. Amazingly, the to-do list should have exactly the features offered by his product.

I would recommend this book to anyone whose email inbox is overflowing. He's absolutely right that it is liberating to reduce the inbox (and
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“It’s far too rarely stated that the technology industry is not in the business of making people productive. It is only in the business of selling more technology.” 5 likes
“The overload makes users less productive and more stressed; thus, there’s a need for some solution. Passively ignoring the problem won’t work, since bits are still heavy, even if we pretend not to notice.” 2 likes
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