If you don’t know it yet, an artist known as Michael Mandiberg decided to print out the entire Wikipedia. If you can’t imagine how it looks like, here’s a photo which shows the part of the whole collection.
And that’s just one site, although it’s one of the biggest websites in the world, it’s still just one domain.
I dare to say that the Internet is one of the best inventions in the human history. I’m incredibly glad to be born in the era and place which give me an unlimited access to this precious resource.
However, oftentimes its power and extent overwhelm me. I literally can’t handle the amount of amazing data that’s within my reach 24/7 and for free (and I end up looking like the guy below).
My real problem is that I try to absorb as much as possible although I learned way too many times that missing out a lot is the best solution.
It’s fine to ignore thousands of life-changing articles, videos, courses, and stories.
Only when you neglect them can you really focus on a few pieces of information, fully understand them and live to the message the author delivers.
Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time and another source of distractions.
At least, this is what happens in my case.
Whenever I get caught up in the ocean of fascinating and inspiring content, my focus drops to zero and I can’t fully digest any of the information. It’s just too much stuff.
Minimalistic approach to information
So I remind myself about the minimalistic approach which encourages you to cut off the vast majority so you can concentrate on a few things that matter.
But it only works if you remove brutally and consistent.
Once you try to put your words into practice, it can be tough to stick to that rule without exception. And each exception makes the next time even harder.
I would plan my day and prepare the whole strategy to keep progressing on my personal goals. I typically do it the night before, so that when I wake up, I know exactly what’s my next move.
Somehow, however, at the end of the day the final result would be far from the planned version. One of the main reasons is that wherever you go in the online realm, there are at least a few people and things that fight for your attention at the same time.
Imagine walking down the street while being surrounded by 10 different guys who follow each of your steps, analyze it and try to offer something interesting.
One invites you to the cinema and offers an extra deal for a movie marathon while the other one gives you a 50% coupon code you can use at the clothing store.
The third one loudly suggests that you should lose some weight and shows you his newest weight loss pills and training program.
If that’s already enough chaos for you, I have a bad message.
There are two insurance guys who claim to have the best insurance plans that you need to check out!
The remaining rest just throws tons of information at you, completely ignoring whether it’s relevant and valuable or not.
The above scenario is what you experience on many websites which put ads in every possible corner.
The same thing can happen to your inbox once you get in the trap of trying to stay up-to-date with too many sites.
Personally, I love to subscribe to the newsletters that catch my attention and can potentially improve the value of my life. The problem is, there are countless inspiring newsletters, but I only have a limited amount of attention and time to devote to them.
And attention is scarce because it doesn’t scale. We can’t do more than one thing at a time, and the number of organizations and ideas that are competing for our attention grows daily.Seth Godin
Same thing goes for great books.
A few months ago, I decided to no longer buy traditional books so I invested in Kindle and that was a great decision.
No more clutter on my shelves, no more shelves on my walls, no more dust on the long-forgotten books. A place for all books and all books in its place.
Kindle offers incredible value for a low price: you can get tons of mind blowing books for a few bucks or even for free. And this is where things get complicated once again.
The paradox of choice
Which one do you choose? If you have a literally unlimited choice, it’s tough to stay rational and don’t let that amount overwhelm you. Instead of reading the actual book, I would browse the daily deals on Amazon for some new ones to read later.
While writing this article and admitting this paradox that I often commit, I realize how counterproductive it is, but when the urge arrives, it’s hard to resist.
Here are a few mistakes which will eventually get you in the trap of information overload:
- subscribing to more newsletters than you can read
- staying subscribed to the newsletters you don’t read at all
- saving interesting stuff for later (I learned that “for later” means “never get back to it again” in most of the cases)
- checking Facebook feed (read this to see how I made Facebook way less distracting)
- if you are a Redditor: subscribing to too many subreddits
- not determining your “one thing” (the most important point)
Now, let’s focus on the last point and the idea from Gary Keller, the author of The ONE Thing, a book I highly encourage you to read. My best takeaway from this bestseller is the following question I remind myself about whenever I see the information chaos on the horizon:
“What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else is easier or unnecessary?”
The message is simple: focus on one thing and everything else starts to fall into place. This idea can be applied to many areas of your life and it works.
Currently, there are a few areas I’d love to improve in.
I want to learn more about fitness and dieting, I want to discover better marketing practices so I could get more people to read my blog without being pushy.
I want to improve my writing so I could make my words more accurate and cut out the superfluous sentences.
Another thing I plan to learn more about is creating a valuable online course that I plan to launch on Growthzer in the future.
And that’s just a small part of the things I’d like to accomplish.
It’s easy to lose track of your progress and end up jumping from thing to thing, without really improving in any area at all. That’s why the idea of the one thing is so essential.
You need to be brutal and harsh when it comes to determining the one thing. If you are not, then everything seems to be worthwhile at the very moment. But again you are not a machine that can effortlessly analyze this data, so each attempt leads to infoglut.
Today’s access to information is powerful, but with huge power comes huge responsibility. If don’t control the information, it will cover the things that matter and steal your precious time without you even noticing it.
How you do benefit from the Internet in a reasonable way?
Here are the five core rules I developed for myself as a result of frustration caused by being constantly distracted and trying to absorb more than I can handle:
1. Determine your one thing
It’s something which is is most important task in this week, month or even a year. It can be preparing to your exams, finishing your book or completing a fitness challenge.
2. Accept that missing out is inevitable and healthy
What I notice is that the more you miss out, the more you improve. And vice versa, the less you miss out, the more time you waste and the less you develop.
Every single day I skip countless gigabytes of valuable information. Whether I accept it or not, it’s inevitable. But I’ve noticed that whenever I just focus on the one thing, the small piece of content I digest provides so much value that the saying “less is more” proves itself to be true.
3. Focus on one medium and source
Even if you determine your one thing, you could still mess up by trying to get information from too many sources. For instance, if you want to learn more theory about entrepreneurship, pick up one business book, read it and then proceed to the next one.
By signing up to 5 different business newsletter, buying a bunch of business books and saving tons of business-related Youtube videos “for later” you’ll actually slow down the process. Driven by excitement, I would do stuff this way and end up frustrated that I don’t do significant progress although I spend a significant amount of time.
The feeling of busyness is incredibly deceptive. Since there’s a huge difference between being busy and being effective. The latter is what you want to achieve.
4. Plan your learning process
Wherever there’s no plan, there’s chaos. That’s just the human nature. Spend 30 minutes to outline the entire strategy and you’ll save yourself hours of time wasted on looking for the checkpoint.
Featured Image by Dylan Roscover