Before the Internet, we gathered information via offline sources like encyclopedias, print magazines, print newspapers, old school radio and television. I remember feeling excitement when I browsed through favorite subjects in World Book Encyclopedia. Before Kindle, Nook and iPad I remember spending hours at bookstores or libraries and filling my basket with fiction and non-fiction titles alike. Gathering information was simpler as there wasn’t an overabundance of sources to choose from.
Fast forward to present day and you could pretty much get anything you could ever want or need through the web’s information highway. While I still love going through offline materials every once in awhile, getting information online is easier, mostly free and convenient as you never have to leave your home. All you need is a computer and Internet connection. In today’s digital era we’ve got online newspapers, online magazines, Wikipedia, blogs, podcasts, vlogs (video blogs), Netflix, YouTube and other social media. Information is constantly being updated and you almost don’t want to stop consuming content for fear of missing out on something that might be important.
While’s it’s great to learn, and knowledge is truly power, there comes a time when you need to be productive. While some information is great, too much consumption can distract you from getting what you need to get done done.
Think about your New Year’s resolutions. What are they and what are your priorities? Was this the year you would make time to go to the gym, start a new blog, experiment with techniques in art or photography, write a novel, get a new job, start a new side business, etc.? Have you found yourself researching aspects on how to get started on your goals or what to create that you found yourself either not moving towards your goals or not creating at all?
There needs to be a way to be more balanced, mindful and selective in obtaining information while also taking action. There are still times when I struggle with mindlessly web surfing and getting stuck in analysis paralysis. However I’ve found some ways to cut back on information overload so I can be more productive.
Here are five basic tips to help resist content consumption and make progress with your goals.
1. Get more selective about the content you consume. I had read Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week when it first came out and one of his tips was to cultivate selective ignorance. Basically stay away from sources that are not important, actionable or relevant to your immediate goals. He also uses the analogy of consuming content to eating foods with non-nutritional value. People excessive in their data consumption often get info from the wrong sources and get distracted from their goals.
2. Prioritize selected content you intend to act on right away. For information you can use right away for an immediate project, prioritize the top vetted 3-5 sources. And for each hour that you consume the “right” content, you should spend about an hour implementing what you read right away so you don’t get stuck in information overload and take no action. Think of it this way, how can you learn to swim in the ocean if you’re always staying on the shore? One of these days you’ll have to get in the water.
3. Done is better than perfect. This is one of the mottos that Facebook lived by when Mark Zuckerberg started his company. Others include “Move fast, break things.” The same could be applied when moving towards your goals. You don’t have to hit everything out of the ball park. Just doing a little at a time in the right direction is enough. Also don’t wait for all the stars to line up or all your ducks to stand in a row because that will never happen. Just move forward.
4. Commit your goals to a time slot on your calendar. Whether you work on something for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or two hours, make sure it’s on your calendar and you’re personally committed to getting the important stuff done. If it helps, use a timer and work through your action items without any distraction.
5. Prioritize creation over consumption. This is a tip I got from Marie Forleo’s Marie TV. She discusses the Creation to Consumption ratio in which not only should you strive to create more than consume but be sure you create or commit to your goals before you consume content. Also make sure you create during peak hours and consume content only during downtime like when you’re waiting in line at the store, or commuting on the subway or bus.