Have you ever been overwhelmed by all the information you face on a daily basis?
Have you ever felt pulled in a hundred directions by all the "expert" voices vying for your attention?
Have you ever frozen at the site of all the newsletters in your inbox, blog posts in your reader or books stacked on your night stand?
It all seems so important and exciting. I know. I've been there.
- "Facebook ads are hot right now? I'd better get on that!"
- "101 news ways to grow my Twitter following? Oh goodie. I can't wait to read them all!"
- "Seth Godin's got a new book! I'll just slide that on top of the ten others on my bedstand."
The most common source of overwhelm is...
- Information can save you time or waste what few moments you have to build a business
- Information can empower you or sap all your energy
- Information can guide you or paralyze you for days
In the last post on learning, we discussed Discovery Learning which shows you the path to take toward a high-level goal.
The challenge is to know when to turn off the information firehose and focus on action.
This post will give you the solution for turning learning into action.
When you do this right, your results will accelerate greatly. Your energy will soar. Overwhelm will take a vacation.
We've been told by both beginning and advanced students that this one simple concept impacted their progress more than anything we've taught.
First, we need to understand the source of information overload.
Bathing in Secret Sauce
Why do we allow information overload? There are a few reasons.
1. We don't want to miss out
Nobody likes to miss out on something important.
That's why promotions based on a limited-time or limited-quantity work so well.
The problem is that we forget that saying yes to one thing means saying no to others.
Like driving a performance car, shifting gears too often wears out the transmission and ruins the ability to move forward.
When you give into the voice that says "I might miss out," you are in actuality missing out on the focus and progress that you already had. You reinforce the message to your mind that your past decisions are invalid. This erodes your confidence and self-efficacy.
2. Learning is Safe
Learning feels good. We get the reward of feeling productive, without the risk of taking action.
This is an excuse. It's a form of procrastination. Inaction is the biggest risk of all. It leads to an endless spiral of learning, overwhelm, avoidance, learning, overwhelm, avoidance, and so on. It ensures we never get results.
3. We hope to find the secret sauce
Every marketer's mission is to make us feel like they have the "secret sauce."
"This ONE secret is what finally brought me success," they say. "And it will bring you success, too. But only if you act now."
This kind of marketing plugs into our belief that we're just one blog post, book, email, podcast or course away from finally finding the ultimate secret to success.
What the marketer is selling might work well. However, that doesn't mean that it is the best thing for you right now.
You have to know the difference. I've told people NOT to buy from us if it wasn't in the interest of their forward momentum.
The secret sauce is taking action.There is no substitute. Progress only comes as a result of action and forward momentum.
The Solution to Information Overload
The solution to information overload is knowing when to unplug from Discovery Learning and switch to Just-in-Time Learning (JITL).
Discovery Learning is about expansion to find numerous possible paths.
Once you choose a path that fits you, it's time to take action. It's time to take the next step along that path.
JITL is about defining milestones along the path, discovering the steps that lead to each milestone and learning how to take those steps.
When you are in JITL mode, only consume information that is:
- Relevant - It relates to the next most important milestone along that path.
- Actionable - You can put into action in the next week or two.
Learn just enough to take the next action, then take it.
There's no sense in learning the latest traffic tricks if you don't even have a web site up yet.
If you haven't defined your target audience, then learning list-building tactics is senseless.
Don't put the cart before the horse.
Here are six steps for putting Just-in-Time learning into action.
Step One: Define the Next Most Important Milestone
Decide what the next most important milestone is for your business. Here are a few examples.
You want to quit your job. You have a clear vision of the life you want to create. Discovery Learning has shown you that an information-based internet business is the way to make it happen.
Next Most Important Milestone: Choose the audience that you want to serve with your business. Define their pains/desires and the solution you'll provide for them.
You've decided you want to help divorced Dad's to manage the financial and relationship issues that arise after divorce. You've talked to several divorced dads to validate your idea. You have a growing following on Twitter that engages with you. Other than that, your brand doesn't have a presence online.
Next Most Important Milestone: Launch a site that is built to attract your ideal audience. Set it up as a home base for your new brand.
Step Two: Find the Right Guide(s)
Choose one (maybe two) courses, books or blogs to guide you to the milestone. Choose ones that relate directly to your next most important milestone.
Guides help us avoid pitfalls. Guide help us stick to the path when it gets hard to follow.
You need a guide that:
- Has taken a similar path before
- Has similar goals and values to yours
- Has your best interests in mind
If you don't know which guides to follow, then the next step is to find them. But limit your search. Don't get stuck looking for every possible guide.
Once a quarter Jeremy and I choose a primary milestone to focus on in our business.
Currently the milestone is to rewrite our email opt-in offer and autoresponder email series.
Our first guide is, Autoresponder Magic.
Our second (and only other guide) is to follow the research and tools provided by LeadPages.
There's no need for us to read 50 blogs about conversion or five books about email marketing.
Once we follow and apply what we learn from those guides, we can decide if we want to find two more.
Step Three: Establish Filters
Filter all information that crosses your path with these three "Just-in-Time" questions.
- Does this apply to my next most important milestone?
- Is the information actionable?
- Can I put this into action today or this week (or at the longest this month)?
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then don't waste and time, energy or attention on it.
I know this can be hard to do. You don't want to miss out.
Here's a handy baby step.
Create a "Sometime Maybe" folder. This could be an Evernote workbook, folder on your desktop, Gmail label or any other filing system that works for you.
Put non-relevant information into the folder. Allow yourself one time a month to look in the folder. Pull out any info that is now relevant to your next most important milestone.
Now and again, DELETE the entire folder!
By the time you need the info, you can find it again.
Chances are the info will be obsolete when you come back to it later. It'll be better to start with a fresh search for the best info.
Also, remember this.
The Pareto Principle tells us that you only need 20% of the information to get 80% of the results. You don't need to find every last possible piece of info.
Learn just enough to take the next step. Apply the 80/20 rule.
STEP FOUR: Define the Next Action
This is a concept we learned from Getting Things Done.
The next action is something that can be done in twenty minutes or less.Anything more will distract and overwhelm you.
Let’s take a look at a next-action example.
On Moving to France
I'm in the process of moving my family to France.
"Move to France" is too big of a step to take action on right now. It's unclear and overwhelming.
A smaller more manageable action would be to get a long-stay visa. But that involves weeks of action steps.
I can break this down smaller to "finish the visa application."
An even smaller action is to collect all the documents I need. But this is still too big.
In twenty minutes I can make a list of the documents I need. That’s all.
This produces forward momentum.
The next action after that is to find a place near me to get passports photos taken.
So on and so forth. To reach you next most important milestone along the chosen path, cycle through next actions like this.
- Learn just enough to get started
- Define the next action
- Take action
- Define the next action
- Take action
- Define the next action.
- Take action
Return to JITL learning when you don’t know what the next action is or you don’t know how to do it.
Just-in-Time Learning frees you.
- It frees you from the desperate feeling that you might miss out.
- It frees you from months or years of distraction.
- It frees you from overwhelm.
Just-in-Time Learning propels you.
- It propels you to the next step.
- It propels you to results.
- It propels you to your desired goals.
Make it a habit. Soon it will be second nature to unplug from the headjack of learning and focus on forward momentum.
Let's commit to this now in the comments below.
Let me know what your next most important milestone is.
Then let me know what guides you have chosen to help you reach that milestone (or how you will find that guide).