5 Questions to Avoid Information Overload
September is the month of learning. I'm all about buying pretty new notebooks, going "back to school" by building my own conference, and hitting the books that all the other bloggers and creatives are recommending. But sometimes all that continuing ed can actually be bad for me---and I know I'm not alone in this.
I value learning so much that I often prioritize it above taking action and making things happen.
My blog feed delivers smart posts that are chock-full of fantastic advice. My Goodreads TBR shelf is bursting at the seams with recommended reads on everything from minimalist nature parenting to building a creative habit. And let's not even get started on the looooong list of podcasts waiting for me in iTunes.
As creatives, we need to remember to keep the balance between creating and consuming. Your time is limited; don't fall into the trap of reading too many posts or taking every e-course on the market without implementing anything.
The next time you find yourself facing a long list of potential reading material or course opportunities use these questions to decide if a resource is worth your time.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Reading that Blog Post
1. Is the topic of this post something I already know about?
It sounds like a no-brainer, but this is a trap I get sucked into all the time. Don't waste your time reading about SEO or website design if you're already a certified expert!
Sometimes we read posts just to procrastinate on more important work. This needs to stop! If you're already well-versed in the topic of a book or blog post, skip it.
2. Is the topic of this post relevant to me right now?
"Right now" is the key to this question. Some posts are interesting and well written, so we read them just in case we ever need that information. But that's a bad strategy. Don't waste your time on information you may never use! Instead, use that time intentionally to work on goals that are part of your main focus right this moment.
3. Is the author of this post someone credible who speaks my language?
The credible part is obvious; you don't want to take advice from some schmuck who doesn't know what he's talking about. Less obvious is asking yourself if the author writes in a way that connects with you.
All writers present their ideas in different ways. Some of those ways will immediately make sense to you, while others will confuse or offend you. If a blogger regularly swears and you hate swearing, or a blogger uses stats and data to make a point when you'd rather find a connection through story, find the information you need elsewhere. The Internet is way too big for you to settle for anything less than the best content presented just the way you like it.
4. Does this post have actionable takeaways?
If a post has lofty ideas but no suggestions for how to take action on them, it's not doing you much good, is it? The purpose of learning is to put that knowledge to work. A poorly written post won't show you how to use that information, which only leaves you stuck in a consumption rut.
This criteria is tricky since you have to read the post before you'll know if there are any actionable points. Some clues that a post contains actionable takeaways are headlines with numbers in them ("5 Tips for Writing on a Deadline") or action words in a title that suggests measurable results ("Improving Your Characterization in One Hour a Week").
5. Can the ideas in this post somehow be applied to my situation?
Once again, this is tough advice to follow. Over the years, I've realized that certain bloggers and authors are always worth reading for me . . . and other big-time bloggers that are truly helpful for others will always be a waste of my time.
Learn who your go-to resources are and forget about everyone else. Just because a blogger has made a huge impact for other business owners doesn't mean they're right for you to follow. Over time, you'll come to know which writers deliver the message you need to hear, over and over again.
Don't get stuck in a rut of consumption
Learning isn't a bad thing, but I'd hate to see you get stuck in a rut of too much consumption with zero action to back up all that learning. Use these questions to get more intentional about your learning so you can get back to creating instead of procrastinating.