A Simple System For Avoiding Information Overload

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That’s what being an info-junkie cost me. If I’m being honest, it probably cost me a lot more.

If you’re on my email list, you already know the story. (If you’re not on my list, fill in your name and email address over on the right to get the good stuff!)

I’m willing to bet that you’re a junkie too. You collect a mountain of information and read every detail before you take action.

On the one hand, that level of preparation improves the quality and thoroughness of your output. If you’re writing a book on golf and spend a year researching every aspect of the game, your book will probably be pretty good.

On the other hand, you’ll waste a ton of time. You’ll end up producing something that won’t deliver the value that reflects the time and energy you invested in the project. Case in point: there are a lot of fantastic books on golf written by authors who never received the recognition or profit they sought.

My goal right now is to help you rehabilitate your inner info-junkie. We’re going to starve him into submission so you can start taking massive action and get more done.

First, let’s take a look at how information overload can seriously impact your life (and not in a good way)…

5 Terrible Consequences Of Being An Info-Junkie

One of the worst things about becoming a junkie is that you don’t realize it’s happening. By the time you notice there’s a problem, your brain has already been trained to constantly look for a fix that will sate the gnawing, bottomless appetite inside you.

Dramatic? Sure. But it’s also true.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking information or crack cocaine. Your brain is ultra-susceptible to new habits. That’s why bad habits are so hard to break.

Not convinced that being an info-junkie is a serious problem? Here are some of the ways a constant stream of information negatively affects your life.

#1 – You Lose Valuable Time

It’s like an itch.

I’m talking about the “need” to search for just one more resource that addresses the topic you want to learn about. You know deep down that reading one more article or watching one more video tutorial won’t make a huge difference. But you can’t help yourself.

You have to scratch that itch.

The problem is, you only have so much time at your disposal. How you use that time dictates the type of lifestyle you lead. If you waste it on seeking needless information, you’ll have less to use in getting things done, spending time with your family, and creating and shipping products.

That thought should always be in the back of your mind.

#2 – You Needlessly Spend Money

Not all resources are free. That’s obvious.

Believe me, I speak from experience. I’ve probably spent close to $25,000 buying courses, ebooks, and various guides over the years.

Did I learn a few things? Of course.

Was the information critical? Nope. Not by a long shot.

Let me be clear… sometimes, the best way to learn how to do something is to buy a book or take a course on that topic. Heck, that’s why I create action plans and guides that show you how to live a more productive, rewarding life.

But if you’re spending a huge chunk of cash on dozens of information products that cover the same subject, it’s time to put your credit card away. Instead, dig into the resources you already have.

#3 – You Take Longer To Ship

Steve Jobs once said “real artists ship.”

He was talking about moving product. He meant that it doesn’t matter how creative you are. If you’re not delivering, you’re leaving a ton of opportunity on the table.

Being an info-junkie is the polar opposite of shipping. You’re too busy collecting resources, reading articles and watching video tutorials to produce and deliver.

#4 – You Suffer Paralysis By Analysis

The more information you collect, the less likely you’ll act on it.

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? You’d think having more resources at your fingertips would make you that much more inclined to take action. But it’s actually the other way around.

The more information that comes in, the more analysis you have to do to validate its accuracy. Weeks can pass without your ever reaching the point that you feel comfortable taking action.

That’s paralysis by analysis.

It will kill your productivity, hamper your income and suck up time you could spend with your family and friends.

#5 – You Make Less Money

You only make money when you take action.

If you’re a freelance web designer, you generate income by designing websites, not by learning how to design websites.

If you’re an author, you generate income by writing and selling books, not by learning how to write and sell books.

If you’re a jewelry designer, you generate income from selling your creations, not by learning how to create them.

Information overload keeps you from shipping and making money. Time spent learning is time that can’t be used to create and deliver. And no one is going to give you money if you don’t deliver.

Here’s the bottom line: learn to perform whatever task you’re trying to accomplish. But don’t keep seeking redundant information. Know when to turn off the hydrant so you can actually do the work!

As promised, I’m going to give you a simple 8-step process for starving your inner info-junkie. It’s designed to keep you focused and spur you to take action. Use this process whenever you need to learn something new.

8 Easy Steps To Killing Your Inner Info-Junkie And Taking Massive Action

The more often you go through these 8 steps, the more second-nature they’ll become to you. After going through the process a few times, you won’t even need to think about it.

I’m going to use a hypothetical example of writing a golf book. That way, the following steps will feel less like theory and more like a practical exercise.

(Disclaimer: I don’t know anything about golf. The last time I swung a club, it left my hands and sailed further than the ball.)

Step #1: Figure Out What You Need To Know

Let’s assume your book will show beginning golfers how to lower their score. You’re not going to address the types of shoes they should wear or the clubs they should buy. Nor are you targeting the pros.

Instead, you’re going to show novices how to putt, chip and drive the ball.

For this step, let’s focus on putting. That’s the broad topic we need to research. But let’s drill down further by concentrating on how to read greens.

Onward to step #2.

Step #2: Choose Your Preferred Information Format

Everyone learns a little differently.

I prefer text. You might prefer videos. Other folks like podcasts. Different strokes for different folks (golf pun intended).

For this step, identify the format you prefer when learning to do something.

It’s okay to choose more than one. For example, although I prefer to read, I’d be an idiot to ignore videos when writing a golf book. Watching pro golfers putt, chip and drive can inform my knowledge about proper form and follow-through.

Step #3: Create A Repository For Collected Resources

Your research will be broken into two parts:

  1. collecting articles and videos

  2. reading or watching those resources

You need a way to organize your materials. The simplest way to do that is to create a folder in your browser. Whenever you come across an article or video that addresses how to read greens, just bookmark it into that folder.

I recommend creating two subfolders under the main folder: one for articles and another for videos. That said, I’m a huge advocate of organization. Your mileage may vary.

Another option is to use Evernote. Create a new “note” and copy paste all of your URLs and titles into it. Be sure to tag the note appropriately so you can easily find it using Evernote’s search function.

I’d use two tags for our project: “golf book” and “read greens”. The first tag will ensure our note pops up if we do a broad search for all notes regarding our book. The second tag allows us to drill down to the topic we’re currently researching.

You can also use the Evernote Clipper to clip articles and videos directly into your Evernote account. If you use it, you won’t have to manually copy and paste URLs and titles. Just be sure to use an intuitive tagging system.

I’ve heard some folks like to use an RSS reader to collect information. Personally, that seems like a clunky way to collect and organize resources. But again, different strokes for different folks. Don’t let me stop you from going that route if you love RSS feeds.

My favorite resource for organizing my research is Evernote. It’s free, simple and intuitive.

Step #4: Start Soaking Up Information

We’ve now compiled a bunch of resources that show how to read greens like a pro. It’s time to end the first phase of our research process (information collection).

Commit to ignoring additional resources. If you come across another article or video, disregard it. The odds that it will offer new, insightful details in addition to the resources you’ve already collected are slim.

Now’s the time to site down review the materials you bookmarked in your browser or organized in Evernote. Read the articles and watch the video tutorials. Take notes along the way.

Some details will be more important than others. For example, you’ll definitely want to include information in your book about identifying the “Zero line,” determining slope direction and figure out the break needed to make a shot. Those items are essential to making great putts.

On the other hand, you can probably ignore information that covers how to read different types of grass and the importance of getting buy-in from your partner or caddy. It’s less valuable to novice golfers. If anything, that kind of information will just overwhelm them.

This step might take hours. Or it could take weeks. It depends on the topic and the level of information you want to cover in your book.

Step #5: Create A Cheat Sheet

Let’s say you’ve found 25 articles and 15 videos that explain the science behind reading greens. There’s bound to be a lot of overlap. Most of the material will probably mention slope direction, break and speed, and likely go into detail about them.

During this step, you want to boil down the main points.

For example, a discussion of slope direction should address putting against an incline, putting on a down slope and aiming the ball in both situations. Create a cheat sheet that summarizes the details offered in each resource.

Your cheat sheet will eliminate the redundant information. That, in turn, will streamline the writing process so you can complete the section on reading greens more quickly.

Remember, our goal is to ship.

Step #6: Apply The Information Immediately

True learning occurs with application. The sooner you can apply the information you’ve researched, the more quickly and effectively you’ll learn it.

You’ll also retain it longer.

In our golf book example, this means visiting a local course to practice reading greens. Spend a couple hours making putts. Note how slope direction, break and speed affect the accuracy of your shots.

You’ll be tempted to skip this step. Believe me, I understand. But don’t underestimate its value. Getting out into the field and applying the information will give you the practical experience you need to write your book with more authenticity.

Step #7: Archive Your Cheat Sheet

This is the simplest step of the entire research process.

Take the cheat sheet you created in step #5 and archive it. Put it somewhere you can gain access to it later.

Personally, I like to keep a printed copy on my desk as well as a copy in the “cloud.” The printed copy is great for quick reference. I can look things up in seconds. The “cloud” copy is useful when I’m working away from my desk – for example, at my local Starbucks. I can easily fire up Evernote or Google Drive and access my cheat sheet online.

I recommend using Evernote to archive your cheat sheet. That’s mainly because of the tagging feature.

Step #8: Teach Someone

If you really want to learn how to do the thing you’re researched, teach someone how to do it. There’s something about tutoring someone else on a subject that drives that subject home in our own brains.

Maybe it’s the implied responsibility. If the person your teaching gets it wrong, it’s probably your fault.

Maybe it’s the repetition of application. We learn by doing. It follows that showing someone else how to perform a task we’ve recently learned to perform reinforces that task in our minds.

Whatever the psychology is behind teaching, there’s no doubting it. Numerous studies have shown that teaching others improves our own performance.

Getting back to our golf book, how you can teach others the “art” of reading greens? Here are a few ideas:

  • record a short video of yourself doing it and upload it to YouTube

  • write a short report that explains the step-by-step details

  • create a tutorial on how to read greens for your blog

  • take a friend to a local golf course and show them how to do it

Remember, the idea behind this 8-step research process is to starve your inner info-junkie. It encourages you to make the transition from research to taking action.

That’s how you become more productive. That’s how you ship. And if you’re operating a business, even a side hustle, that’s how you make more money.

By the way, if you’re not on my email list, I strongly encourage you to sign up. You’ll not only receive an ongoing stream of actionable tips and systems for becoming more productive, but you’ll also receive my 40-page action guide “Catapult Your Productivity! The Top 10 Habits You Must Develop To Get More Things Done.

Photo by david_shankbone

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