If you’re beyond the “Wow, I have three whole followers” stage and are now trying to keep up with an eternally-refreshing timeline full of thousands of updates a minute on Twitter, you might start feeling like you’re the Fail Whale – constantly facing the threat of Twitter overload. However, there are plenty of ways you can filter tweets and sift out the ones that are more clutter than content, so you can free yourself from being chained to an irrelevant timeline.

It doesn’t take too many follows before you start becoming overwhelmed with the deluge of content on Twitter. Even if you’re following just 20 people, you’ll have a lot of reading to do. And the more unfiltered tweets you read, the more you’ll realize that a lot of them have nothing to do with you.

So how do you manage Twitter overload? Short of smashing the power button on your computer and walking away in a daze, there are dozens of different ways to manage the constant stream of tweets that fills up your Twitter timeline. Here are 5 surefire ways you can manage your tweets and banish Twitter overload, and become a super-powered user in the process.

1. Create Twitter lists

Lists are a fantastic way to filter your tweets and avoid becoming inundated with pointless babble. You can create a Twitter list on Twitter.com. Simply log in, and navigate to the dropdown menu below the “What’s Happening” box that says “Lists”. There you’ll see the option to “Create a list”.

You can create a list for family, co-workers, industry insiders, journalists and more. Adding users to Twitter lists is easy, and saves automatically. And lists can be continuously curated if you want to add new users and remove old ones, so they remain relevant.

By visiting the list page, you’ll see tweets from everyone that you’ve added. This organizes the people you follow, and lets you filter out noise in your homepage timeline.

2. Follow hashtags and keywords

Like lists, following hashtags and keywords will filter out any tweets unrelated to what you’re interested in. But while lists filtered tweets by user, hashtags and keywords filter tweets by topic.

You can use an application like TweetChat to follow only those tweets that contain a certain hashtag or keyword. Simply log in with your Twitter credentials, and then type the keyword or hashtag you want to follow. You’ll then be shown a real-time stream of only those tweets that contain your search term.

For more information about what hashtags are and how they can simplify your Twitter experience, check out our guide to using hashtags.

3. Use a Twitter dashboard

Twitter dashboards like Seesmic, TweetDeck and HootSuite offer multiple ways to manage and filter tweets.

You can create columns just for lists that you follow, so you can see real-time updates from those in one particular group. Twitter dashboards also enable you to create columns which display only tweets that contain a certain keyword, or those that mention your username.

We’ve created a beginner’s guide to using HootSuite, so you can get more information out of Twitter more easily and ditch the noise.

4. Block users and topics that don’t interest you

Another way you can cut down on the noise in Twitter is by singling out those users and topics that annoy you most. If people are discussing a conference you didn’t attend or filling up your timeline with pointless celebrity gossip, you might begin to experience Twitter overload.

But, as with almost everything these days, there’s an app for that.

If you use Google Chrome, you can try Proxlet, a Twitter app that lets you define the people you want to stop hearing from and the hashtags you want to stop hearing about. You can choose to block users or hashtags for one day, one week, or forever, and free up your Twitter timeline for people and topics that you actually care about.

5. Only view tweets with links

One of the most popular uses of Twitter is to share links to interesting blog posts, articles images, videos and other multimedia. However, if you are following hundreds or thousands of users, some of the best links might be lost in a sea of snarky comments about the latest celebrity meltdown.

If you only want to view tweets that contain links, you should familiarize yourself with Twitter’s advanced search features. Visit Search.Twitter.com and experiment with searching for keywords you’re interested in followed by the operation “filter:links“. This will show only those tweets that contain your specified keyword and a link.