How To Avoid Information Overflow?

A month and a half ago, I wrote whether or not it's good to be a jack of all trades or take more of a specialist approach to things you do online, e.g. Internet business. If you haven't seen the post I'm talking about, you can find it here: Be a Jack of All Trades and You Will Fail?

At the time I wrote the earlier post, I was leaning towards specializing and getting really good at handful of things, instead of pulling all the strings and being a true generalist. But lately I've recognized that being a generalist doesn't mean knowing a little bit of everything, but instead, knowing enough about multiple topics to be able to utilize all that for fun or profit.

The problem with being a generalist is the attention span and the looming information overflow if you get carried away...

Jack of All Trades > Specialist?

What I finally understood, is that getting really good at something does not mean that is the ONLY thing you can get good at.

Now, I believe one can be a jack of all trades, and even that one should be a jack of all trades, instead of one-dimensional specialization. By not limiting myself to something specific I can focus on things I'm interested in, learn a bit, and then learn even more or move on to the next thing and get back on that subject later.

I've always had this love for knowledge and learning, I like and want to do a lot of things, learn everything and all that. But when I'm not careful, I find my attention jumping all over the place and it's hard to focus on any one subject.

Some call this information overflow. When there is so much information and opportunities available to us, it can be hard to know where to begin. To be able to use all the information, I must also do things, take action. Sounds easy, but taking that action is the hardest part (even that it really isn't).

Forced Focus

Focus Your Effort!Being a generalist, jack of all trades, is fun. You can learn and do all kinds of things, and form a wider comprehension of things that are around you.

But even then, you must still focus on things that matter the most.

Sometimes that's hard.

There is so much we CAN learn and do, that it can be hard to find the focus and actually do something.

It's hard to focus and it might be hard to know what does matter the most.

If you just scratch the surface of everything, learn more things but never end up putting what you know and learn into action, you might be having a load of fun and know a lot of stuff, but you're not getting much results are you?

The problem, or the danger, in all this is that by doing everything, you end up achieving nothing.

Thus, even a jack of all trades must focus on one thing at a time.

If you're not sure what is the most important thing to do right now, take your best guess and force your focus on that.

When you have that one focus, you can put all your attention on that one thing and just ignore everything else. When it's done, you can focus on the next thing.

Baby Steps, One Step At a Time

I find myself reading and learning about all kinds of things, but in the end I need to focus on what matters.

What does matter, depends on what I want to achieve.

For example, if I need to improve my blog, there are a lot of things I can do, but if there is no content on the blog, those other things don't matter much, do they? Speaking of which, I've tweaked my WordPress theme and design a lot lately. But doing that doesn't deliver many blog posts to this blog, does it? No.

And then again, I might be researching and learning about the topics I plan to write about and end up reading the whole day and not write a single word.

Being a jack of all trades is a whole lot of fun, but I also need to put on the specialist hat, put what I've learned into use and finish what I was suppose to do.

The secret is to break it into tiny pieces and concentrate on one thing at the time.

It's good to have a overall plan, as long as you remember to do things too.

Selective Ignorance

You can focus on what you're good at and what you're interested in and just ignore the rest. If there are things you're not very good at and don't really want to learn, but those things should be done somehow, ask for help, outsource.

Set yourself goals, plan the steps to achieve your goal and go for it. Decide what's important and what's not. This is called selective ignorance. Ignoring certain things on purpose, so you don't spread your attention too wide.

It's selective, because you choose not to focus on those aspects. Or put them on your to-do list with lower priority, so you don't forget them, but just won't focus on right now.

Keep your plans, dreams, your ambitious goals in mind, but focus on the most important tasks and activities at a time.

Stay On Target

Personally, I find it interesting to get to know how things work and how I can use them. It's important to me that I understand the what and why of anything I do. So I like to dig deep and do all kinds of things. But I must filter a lot of things too.

I admit, sometimes I drift into over-planning and go through the different options for so long that I forget what I was suppose to do in the first place. Occasionally I'm having problems with information overflow and running behind shiny objects, but eventually I find the focus again and move on.

So if you're like me and like to learn things, that's cool, but remember to focus yourself on the task at hand when needed and don't let the information overflow overwhelm you...

I manage information overflow with "forced focus" and selective ignorance.

What's your strategy fighting the information overflow?

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Topic: Get Things Done
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