Are You Overwhelmed by Information Overload? What (Not) to Do

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It seems like we are bombarded by more and more content every single day. The ongoing content stream has become a non-stop all-you-can-eat buffet where we feel compelled to not disappoint our host.

Thanks in large part to Google’s crackdown on content mills and black-hat SEO techniques, the quality of online content has greatly improved. It is now possible to pick up information and download e-books that, in the past, would’ve required a paid subscription.

Today alone, my email account offered up the following gems:

“The Top 10 Social Media Mistakes You’re Making”

“How to Increase Your Conversion Rate by 1000% in a Week”

“The One Action I Took that Made Me a Successful Entrepreneur”

When you have such tempting article titles and (presumably) informative content, how can you do anything else but spend your entire day reading and trying to learn?

But therein lies the crux of the problem. Why do we feel compelled to read every piece of content that comes our way- so much so that we neglect actually starting our intended online or work-at-home business?

Content plays on your psychological weak spots

Last year, I explained how you could use certain consumer psychology ploys to increase sales. Marketing and sales people know all about how to take advantage of our insecurities to sell us stuff.

But guess what? Adept content writers are no different. These writers usually have some conversion rate or goal in mind when they write their posts, white papers or articles. They want you to read their stuff! That’s also why a lot of online content is prefaced by titles that play on your emotions.

Unfortunately, after reading too much content and trying to keep track of all the “rules” of social media promotion or effective landing page creation, or the blogging no-no’s and yes-yes’s, you are left exhausted. Whatever motivation you had to propel your business forward has long since fizzled.

Even if you’re not feeling fried, you may simply be out of time to do any real work on your online or work-at-home business. And that’s not good either.

So, why do we allow ourselves to get all worked up and, by doing so, sabotage our own entrepreneurial success?

We think there’s a secret to success.

Online content writers are continually hinting that if we just learn this one skill or pick up this one trick, all our entrepreneurial troubles will be over and we’ll now be successful.

It just ain’t that easy -or hard.

There’s no single secret that will skyrocket your business or make you earn thousands of dollars overnight or finally attract customers to your website. You are not just one blog post or landing page or podcast away from sudden riches and fame.

In fact, you can use many different tactics (i.e., “secrets”) to propel your business forward. And realistically, what’s worked for other entrepreneurs may not work for you.

What is the real secret to success? Taking action. Not waiting until tomorrow or next week to accomplish something today.

Unfortunately, incessantly scouring online content lulls you into thinking that you are being productive when in fact you’re just using your reading activities as a clever delay tactic.

We hate missing out.

When my Dad and I would go walleye fishing, he’d instruct me to always be reeling in my bait. With walleye, you couldn’t have the night crawler just sitting still in the water. No, those fish would only bite if the bait was being taken away.

Sometimes, I think we humans may be related to walleye.

Limited time only deals expertly play on our innate fear of missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime event or sale. From dating to buying smartphones to exploring business ideas, we’re always peering over our shoulders and suspecting that there may be something better out there.

But, the god-honest truth is that new is not always better. What is actually better is whatever you’re working on and becoming more adept at.

So, if you’re constantly saying yes to every new training program or online business idea, you’re also saying no to becoming more knowledgeable about and successful at what you’ve already begun.

Learning is safe.

And so, to all you graduates… 

as you go out into the world 
my advice to you is… 

don’t go! 
It’s rough out there. 

Move back with your parents. 
Let them worry about it.

-Rodney Dangerfield, in Back to School

Unlike the day-to-day challenges of running an online or work-at-home business, learning about business is far less frustrating. Also, we achieve a sense of accomplishment by passively absorbing information and then sounding “edumacated” as we expound it to others.

But it’s all just a clever psychological illusion that we create to avoid taking real action. Why?

Because action means risk, and specifically, the risk of failure. It’s far safer to just learn. Besides, learning feels good.

Unfortunately, this frequently results in a vicious cycle of learning, experiencing information overload, and withdrawing. A few days later, with the overload experience dulled, we hop right back on the learning-overload-withdraw train. And not much else is accomplished.

So, how can we get past our psychological weak spots and process information more productively? Here’s a simple two part answer.

Part I: Take only the next step.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither should your online business. Define what is the next actionable step that you need to take in order to push your business forward. That’s it. Worry about the other stuff later.

Part II: Read less- not more.

You don’t need to read your entire chemistry textbook before you perform your first experiment. No, you just need to understand the basic principles of that particular experiment, its expected outcome, and your required action.

Likewise, you need just enough relevant information to take the next step in developing your business.

Don’t read guides on how to publish an e-book if you’re simply trying to create a landing page on your website. You’re not here to publish an e-book. Likewise, don’t peruse articles on the philosophy behind sales page creation if these articles don’t tell you exactly how to set one up.

Get yourself the bare minimum yet relevant information so that you can take the next step in your business- but no more.

Once you take that first actionable step, then you can decide if you require additional information.

Repeat

Once you’ve completed your first actionable step, it’s time to define the next one- and locate the relevant information for completing it. Again, don’t go digging around for too much stuff. You should at most have to read through 3-4 articles before you get started on your task.

Afterwards, just keep taking it one step at a time. In doing so, you’ll slowly build your online business without becoming overwhelmed along the way.

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