Information Overload? No Such Thing

So Much Information, so Little Time

How will I ever keep up?   … that feeling grips many of us.

When it does, we shrug our shoulders and curse the glut of data pouring into and through our lives. It has, in fact, become quite trendy to complain about feeling harassed and overwhelmed by all the incoming info that we need to know. Somebody even coined the term “information overload,” right?

I used to think I had that problem, but you know what? I’ve changed my mind. I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as information overload. This widespread problem is not the fault of all that data “out there.” No, the cause is much closer to home than that. In fact, it lies inside each one of us.

Having too much to read is not the problem. That’s only a symptom.

The real problem is an inability to make decisions. Decisions about what your actual purpose and direction are; decisions about how to spend your time most profitably in the pursuit of that purpose (while discarding what doesn’t fit); and about what we actually need to read.

We go through our days scooping up every bit of information that seems even remotely related to our interests (and much that isn’t), indiscriminately stuffing it into our heads whether it’s appropriate to our needs or not. We tell ourselves we need to have that data “just in case.” A type of gluttony.

See what I mean? This represents a chronic inability to make decisions according to a guiding purpose. The symptoms are everywhere: People who never learned how to filter out the things they don’t need, because they never learned to set directions and priorities for their life. There’s nothing guiding their decisions.

On a slightly different front, in the average US household, the TV is on for more than 8 hours per day. And the average individual watches it for more than four and a half hours — a half a work-day. So … what are they getting for the time they invest there?

I hear people complaining about the quality of the stuff they’re watching, but when asked why they don’t just turn it off, there’s no ready answer. Just turn it on and watch whatever you can find amid the 500 channels of wasteland.

Oh, we can rationalize away responsibility for the state of our life with reasonable sounding excuses:

  • It’s all that information out there (THEY are producing too much)
  • It’s my genetics (my ancestors are to blame)
  • It’s the modern need for multitasked living (society is too complex)
  • It’s a dog-eat-dog world (other people are just too competitive and I have to keep up)

But as long as we assign blame (and the power to control) to some person, group or power “out there” somewhere, we are continuing to abdicate the right to set the direction and purpose of our own life.

So if you have a serious hobby and you’re dredging the Internet for information, do you really need to be on another six email lists? Or to read five more blogs? Or to download still more ebooks on the topic?

Or if it’s a business you’re trying to start, the same questions apply: 6 more ezines? 5 more blogs? Another half a dozen ebooks, interviews, instruction videos? Every minute you spend consuming someone else’s information is a minute you can put off deciding what YOU will do to help change the world.

Take the case of setting up a business. This is one that’s close to my own heart. All that information you’re collecting… did the first successful business founders on the Internet have the benefit of any of that? Truthfully, no — they had far, far less knowhow about running a business on the Internet — and yet they managed somehow to create successes.

What they DID have (that you may or may not) was the willingness to make decisions. Decisions about what their actual purpose and direction was. Decisions about how to spend their time most profitably in the pursuit of their purpose (while discarding everything that didn’t fit). And decisions about what they actually needed to read.

They ignored what they didn’t need. Just filtered it right out of their life stream. How did they do that?

They were willing to give up all the stuff that wouldn’t immediately, right now, help them move in the direction they had decided to go. They left it behind because extraneous stuff would only slow them down.

True, the most successful people are voracious readers and learners. BUT… they’re not omnivorous. In fact, they’re extremely picky about what they let into their heads.

And the whole process starts with decisions.

  • What am I going to do?
  • What direction will I be moving this year?
  • What are some signposts and milemarkers along the path I’ll travel?
  • What WON’T I need along the way?

The new year is still a few months off, but it’s coming. And every year, we see a huge wave of new goals — new resolutions — but most resolutions and goals don’t spring from real decisions; they’re nothing but wishes. They simply won’t get accomplished.

Now, some of those resolutions truly are well intentioned and serious. However, they may be aimed off in the wrong direction, or worse, aimed in several different directions at once. This happens because many people just don’t understand the importance of setting basic, foundational strategies before they begin choosing their tactics.

For example, as part of a drive for self-improvement, we may decide to spend more time reading. After all, we’re really quite serious about overcoming the dreaded information overload. But in making that decision, we may not give enough thought to what kind of information we’ll be reading. If we simply assume that more is better, then this is the same old gluttony dressed up in business clothes.

So before you decide WHAT you’re going to do, you always, ALWAYS need to know WHY you’re doing it. Otherwise, you’re digging for buried treasure without a map.

Business coach and Internet millionaire Alex Mondossian states that when he’s in the middle of a project, he refuses to buy ANY software, information product or program that is not immediately applicable to what he’s currently working on.

In the popular book “The E-Myth”, Michael Gerber advised all entrepreneurs starting a business to “start with the end in mind.” In other words, know where you’re going before you start going there.

So where are you going? Are you ready to make the basic strategic decisions about where you’re headed? And why? And what it’ll mean to you? Once you know those things, then it becomes much more obvious what tactics and actions to put into play.

You’ll almost certainly find yourself reading a lot less material “just in case you need it someday.” You’ll probably also quit buying more and more apps, programs and business systems because you’ll know instantly that “Oh, this doesn’t fit my business model.”

Your mind will be clearer, your actions will be more logical and less stressed, and your results will come much faster when you’re not trying to force every stray bit of business advice into what you’re working on today.

So the secret to shedding information overload is to recognize it for what it really is: information gluttony, an unwillingness to decide what’s important and what’s not.

Once you make your basic, fundamental decisions, then consistently implement them, all those frantic, rushed, overwhelmed feelings just evaporate on their own.

And information overload? The good news is it never existed in the first place, so you might as well claim your freedom from it right now.