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Information Overload? YOUR Blueprint for Turning Information into Action

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

Information

It’s the cornerstone of any successful Internet business. We all need information to learn what techniques are currently working.  Without it; you’ll get left behind.

Odds are you’re in the information business.   It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger, affiliate marketer, product owner, or complete newbie; your Internet business is based on information.  The question is how to synthesize information without wasting a lot of time.

The Trap of Too-Much Information

Like I said in the article about fighting overwhelm it’s easy to get caught in the information overload trap.  We all want to succeed.  And sometimes it seems like the best way to do it is to read everything that pertains to Internet marketing.

How to Fight Information OverloadToo much information can be a bad thing.  It’s one of those creative excuses we all make for why we can’t more forward with a project.  Often it’s easier to say you’re learning about a technique than it is to try it and make mistakes.  If you let it… information overload will cause paralysis by analysis.

So what’s my point?

It’s simple.  While information is important, it’s also an area where people waste a lot of time.  Today I’d like to talk about my method for synthesizing information and taking action.

What I’m about to discuss is important because it teaches the exact steps to become a mini-expert in any topic.  After this post you’ll be able to learn ANY new concept and immediately apply it to your Internet business.

Step 1: Know What You Want to Learn

During a recent minimalist kick, I’ve tossed out a lot of stuff.  One of things I found (and then discarded) was a bunch of binders full of notes about Internet marketing.  What’s interesting is I didn’t do a damn thing with these notes.  I sure wrote a lot.  However I didn’t take action on a single thing I learned.

We’ve all been there.  You want to learn everything about the Internet lifestyle.  So it’s easy to load up a feed reader with hundreds of different blogs.  In a way, this makes you feel like you’re getting stuff done with your business.   Unfortunately the only result this produces is you’ll learn a little bit about a lot of things.

The solution is FOCUS.  At the risk of sounding like Yoda: If you want to learn about something; identify what you must learn.

Don’t say you’d like to learn about Internet marketing.  That’s not actionable.  Instead, identify those key areas that can bring your business to the next level.  Or if you don’t have a website; then figure out the ONE thing that can help you get started.

Here’s how to do this:

Get out a piece of paper and write down the techniques that will improve your business.  Be specific with what you’d like to learn.  That means “how to get more blog traffic,” is a better option than writing down “blogging.”

For example; here is a list of the concepts I feel can help my Internet business:

  • How to increase YouTube video views
  • How to creating an email sequence that converts
  • How to get results with social media
  • How to network without wasting a lot of time
  • How to write a persuasive sales page

Right now these are the key areas I’d like to improve in the next six months.  Obviously this is an ever-changing list.  The point here is I’ve identified the key concepts that can take my business to the next level.

What if you can’t think of anything? My advice is to have a brainstorming session where you write down every obstacle you’ve encountered.  Next, make a list of the techniques that *might* help overcome them.  Finally, pick the best choices.

Step 2: Use the Right Tools to Collect Information

It’s important to create systems for collecting information.  Part of this system is to use tools that save time and become part of an Internet ritual.

Your primary tool will be a feed reader.  I suggest News Gator because it’s really easy to install and use.  With this tool you collect blogs into a single interface.  Then you’re automatically notified whenever there is a new post.

You’ll want to organize this feed reader.

First you should create a few categories that are based on why you’ve added these sites.  Some will be for networking purposes.  Others provide great Internet marketing training.  And a few will be related to your niche.  Separating them into categories makes it a lot easier to scan and identify what’s important to look at….Right NOW.

In addition you should organize the bookmarks.  These should directly tie-in to the key areas you identified in the first step.

Bookmarking is an important skill to learn as an Internet marketer.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by information.  So the solution is to sort each piece of information into an area that can be found in a few seconds.

The key here is organization.  Create categories based on what you’d like to learn.  Then only bookmark the articles with actionable items.

Step 3: Tightly Focus on One Area at a Time

As we’ve learned; information is nothing without action.  Sure; we all love that warm, fuzzy feeling after reading an inspirational article.  The trick is to take what you’ve learned and immediately apply it.

The one thing that helps is to focus on one area at a time.  Don’t try to learn everything all at once.  Instead identify that next skill/technique you’d like to develop and attack it!

For instance, let’s say you’d like to learn how to improve your results with YouTube.  The best use of your time is to read articles (and watch videos) about increasing views/conversions on this site.

Focusing on a single topic is the quickest path to instant authority.  You’re not learning about a bunch of unrelated subjects. Instead you’ll learn about a technique and then immediately apply it.

Step 4: Compile Actionable Information

This is where the rubber meets the road.  Now you’ll compile all the information related to this topic.

Start with your feed reader.  Go through the articles you’ve bookmarked in this category.  And if you don’t have any, then do a search on each of the blogs you’ve targeted.

Next, you’ll check out different sites on the Internet:

  • Run a search on Google using the major keywords
  • Check out the PPC ads on the right
  • Join email lists relating to this topic
  • Watch content-filled YouTube videos
  • Listen to podcasts that discuss this topic

The reason you’ll do all this is to get a broad perspective on what other marketers are doing.  Don’t just listen to one person’s opinion.  Instead, research and discover a variety of techniques you can try!

Third, read a few books/magazines on this topic.  There might not be a lot written about it.  But an ‘authority book’ on this subject can dramatically increase your learning curve.

Finally you should consider buying an information product on this subject.  In my opinion, this is a great way to quickly learn the ins-and-outs of particular Internet marketing technique.  Obviously do your research before buying anything.

Step 5: Synthesize the Notes into a Single Document

In the last step you’ve compiled a lot of notes from a variety of sources.  Now it’s time to trim the fat! You’re going to take these notes and turn it into a single document.

This step is important because you’ll be eliminating a lot of redundant information.  Plus you’ll get rid of the stuff that’s not actionable.  We’re not kids anymore.  And you’re not cramming for a big Internet marketing exam.  So you don’t need to know things like the “history of video marketing” or “6 reasons why should use video.”

Only include information that can be immediately applied to your Internet business.  For example, here are a few things I’d include:

  • Reference Markers- Write down page numbers, hyperlinks, and audio/video tracks relating to an important concept.
  • System Diagrams- Draw out the processes/examples from different marketers
  • Step-by-Step Blueprints- Same thing.  Write down the steps a marketer uses.
  • Sticking Points- Annotate any questions you have about a process.  Then go ask one of the experts you found in step 4.
  • Action Items- Figure out a game plan of how you’ll implement the concepts you’ve just learned.

You might think synthesizing information is busy work.  It’s not.  Actually it’s a great technique for internalizing what you’ve learned.  Re-writing this information move you one step closer to unconscious competence.

Step 6: Turn the Information into an Action Plan

What to Do About Information OverloadI didn’t bring a laptop on my recent trip to Belize.  Instead  I brought something that’s very important to the growth of my Internet business – 30 pages of synthesized notes on how to get backlinks to a website.

When I wasn’t doing fun things, I was busy turning these notes into an action plan.  By the time I boarded the plane back home, I had a two-page action plan.

At this point you’ll still have a lot of information.  With this step you’re going to trim the fat one more time.  Basically you’ll take everything and create a plan that will be immediately implemented.  My recommendation is to turn all this information into two pieces of paper:

1)      Reference: Same thing as step 5.  Annotate any supporting documents you might need in the future.  Be sure to include any relevant diagrams and system processes.

2)      Action Plan: Put your notes into a series of actionable items.  This will now become part of your project list

Why is this step important?  Because it creates a plan that’s easy to follow.  It’s been my experience that a simple process is often the most effective.  You won’t get much done with pages and pages of notes.  Instead it’s better to have a step-by-step blueprint that you can methodically work through.

Step 7: Take Immediate Action

Plans are nothing without action.  In this step you’ll schedule time blocks were you’ll work on this project.  It be could a few hours each day or during a long marathon stretch of work. The important thing is to take action on what you’ve just learned.

The trick is to make sure every item on this list is actionable.  If you need to, break a down a step even further into single task.  This is a great way to tackle a project that seem insurmountable at first.

Step 8: Rinse and Repeat

At a certain point, a new technique will become part of your daily ritual.  That means you’ve gone from learning to doing.  When you’ve mastered one concept you’ll move on to the next.  All you have to do is repeat the seven steps I outlined in this post.  Rinse and repeat till you’ve become an Internet marketing God. :-)

Final Thoughts on Information Overload

Information overload is something that plagues all Internet marketers.  And it’s only going to get worse!  With new blogs and “Internet experts” popping up every day, it’s becoming increasingly important to have a system for turning information into action.

Don’t feel like you need to learn all at once.  Instead, focus on that next technique that will help your business.  Then ATTACK it with all you’ve got!

Like a lot of people, I started my online business with zero knowledge.  Seriously…the only thing I used a computer for was video games and email.  Beyond that, I was clueless.

What brought me to this point was an ability to synthesize information.  I didn’t just read about a concept.  I immediately implemented it!

The process I used to turn information into action is the same plan I’ve provided in this post.  I know it works because it’s helped me become a mini-authority in a lot marketing related subjects.

I suggest a simple plan for information overload.  Just concentrate one technique at a time.  Keep working at till you’ve mastered it.  Then move on to the next.  Rinse and repeat till you’re officially an expert.

Good luck!

Take Action. Get Results.



{ 40 comments }

Tho Huynh

This is definitely a solution for my case. In fact, I try to focus on various topics, but I can’t gain anything.

Steve Scott

Thanks for the comment Tho,

“It is the Jack of all trades, master of none” Some general background can (of course) be helpful, but far too often people get bogged down by minutia (myself included) YOu have to learn to use the steps to attack -what matters- and what you want to know NOW

Joe Barlow

More good stuff, Steve, as always! I could have used this post a month ago, when I began to (seriously) turn my attention to blogging and Internet marketing! Ha!

I am so guilty of allowing information overload to paralyze me. Although I am taking definite steps towards my goals, and making steady progress (my blog hit 1,000 unique visitors in a single day yesterday, for the first time ever), I still spend way too much time trying to read all the excellent materials floating around in cyberspace.

I have a folder of ebooks on my desktop, for instance — mostly freebies I’ve received from joining various mailing lists. I think there are something like 50 in there right now. Although I have read a few (including Income Trilogy), most just sit there. I should probably just delete the folder and GET TO WORK ALREADY. As long as these books sit on my desktop, they are a distraction.

On the other hand, I have found some real gems in these ebooks, and I’d hate to throw away a strategy that could potentially help me take my business to the next level.

Balance and moderation, I suppose, are the key.

-j.

Steve Scott

Joe,

I hear ya,

I have and have had a similar folder on my computer. Some are even ebooks I have paid for. It is great to constantly learn. I would try to do what I do. Set aside a specific amount every day and read them.

Not to much time but not to little. I try to read (ebook, print book etc…. outside of blogs) about 1 hour a day. But that is it.

When you back it up with only reading the things that you immediately put into effect or use to create a plan-of-action, it simply makes those “gems” you find that much more powerful, because you really USE them.

It is a tough balance, because I do believe constantly learning is essential, but so is constantly DOING.

Like you said…balance and moderation

By the way big congrats on hitting 1000 uniques in a day. That is a nice milestone and one you should be proud of.

Rock on!

Daniel @Best Online Income

Great post Steve. As a newbie, I am particularly troubled by “information overload paralysis” quite often.

Patricia@lavenderuses

Hi Steve

As always more helpful information that I can implement. When I started blogging I was totally overwhelmed! Talk about information overload. I read and kept collecting information then didn’t know what I should be doing LOL

Cos depending which e-book or blog post I was reading, everything seemed most important! But like you say in this post, concentrating on one thing at a time is the way to go. And even if others are telling me that I should be doing this or that, I now don’t get diverted and stick to whatever task is at hand.

This has certainly proved more productive and as I map out my daily actions, seem to still be learning what I need to learn but not getting information overload any more. Sweet :-)

Patricia Perth Australia

Steve Scott

There certainly is a lot of info out there. Even a lot of -good and useful- info out there. It takes some time and energy to set up a plan to “use it when you need it” but it is so much more effective than simply trying to learn everything at once.

I think constant learning is awesome…but it has to be tempered by needs.

Ralph

Steve,
I do finally start some things but then is when I break down. Instead of systematically finding out how to make them better and more effective I get overwhelmed and decide that starting was a mistake. Then I look for something else to start. What I learned from this post is that I need more work on the front end. Starting is good but a better start can get you past overwhelm.

Steve Scott

Ralph,

For sure, There is a ton of things out there to learn. I know I learn a little more everyday. If you do not have some sort of systematic approach to it, the learning will undoubtedly lead to information overload eventually IMO

Danny @ Firepole Marketing

Really amazing post, Steve. There’s so much good stuff here that if I were to write about everything I liked, it would be a whole other post in a comment – so I’ll just focus on the one thing that stuck with me the most:

The need for “just enough, just in time” when it comes to pulling in information. You’re right – there’s so much out there that if you try to take it all in, you’ll just drown. So it is absolutely critical to figure out what you actually need to learn *right now*, and leave all the rest for later.

This post really got me thinking. Thank you, Steve!

Steve Scott

Thanks Danny,
I appreciate the kind words. Just-in-time learning really is the way to go as i see it. You learn what you needs and THEN you immediately reinforce what you learn. It also helps make it stick.

mark@niche idea

Hi Steve,

This looks to be solid method to reduce noise from your work life. For me, step 3 is the hardest part. That is, deciding upon your focus needs to include thought about how it effects your objectives that are not directly impacted by your actions.

The reason that is hard is that, as you mentioned, it is so easy to get caught up in learning everything. Getting started before you know enough is bad too, of course.

Joe and Patricia both had very interesting points. Learning to eliminate distractions and to focus only on what you need to in order to be effective is quite difficult.

Beginning work when I know just enough is my goal. Most of the time, though, I just start as soon as I have an idea.

So far, so good…

Have a great day!

Steve Scott

At some points in the learning curve i think #3 is fine. Even though it isn’t perfect. There is something to be said for throwing S*** against the wall and seeing what sticks.

I know I have done it …and likely will again.

As a long term solution having focus really is much better though.

Thanks for dropping by and dropping a great comment Mark

Justin Matthews

This is great info Steve. I have hit that “I have too much crap on my computer I should delete” wall but I didn’t know what to do about it. I have already scaled back on new stuff but I didn’t have a direction to keep growing my business. Thanks for the map. and for the whole folder of ebooks, I put all of them on my Kindle and delete them as I read them when I have time to do so. It works ok for now. anyway, nice post, thanks for the info.
-Justin

Steve Scott

Thanks Justin,

Appreciate the comment. The insta-delete method is a great one. and a great way to use the kindle (gotta love the kindle!!)

Thanks for dropping by, it has been a while since i have seen you. I will swing by your site tomorrow, it has been a long time since i have been to your site (or Ralphs or the coots) ’bout to call it an evening tonight though… :)

paul wolfe

Steve

Information Overload is something that’s really hard to cut through to start with – there is just sooooo much to learn. I like your plan – breaks the steps down into managable chunks isn’t just the best way of actually achieving anything. It’s the only way.

Paul

P.S.
If you’re serious about learning about YouTube – and getting viewers with videos – then hit me up with an email. My bass website is driven by Youtube (I get around 450 uniques a day – 80% of them are via YouTube and other video aggregators). I did a 4 Webinar series on it – so I can speed the process up for you.

Steve Scott

Paul I am interested to hear what ideas you have for Youtube, so I just might hit you up.

I have a couple of books i have been reading and I have been using a program to help the process. I have actually been having some pretty seriously good results, but another perspective would be cool.

I actually do have a fair bit of experience with Youtube also. I drove a fair share of business using it overt the past few years. I am sort of doing a re-approach to it rather than just hap-hazard.

.

Andy@3D Video Camera

As a newbie, I get excited with the prospect of learning all these cool internet business stuff and end up still confused at the end of the day. Then at my own pace, I try to slow things down a bit and learn each skill one-by-one. Thanks Steve, this post is a great guide for me.

Steve Scott

Andy,

There is a lot to learn. At VERY first you need to know WHAT you need to know. Once you get that though, I think it is a little easy to, as you say, “slow things down a bit and learn each skill one-by-one”

Have an awesome day!

Alex@make money with niche websites

This post is too long, I am overloaded with information and I do not know how to process it.

Wait, there’s a plan hidden in that chaos :)

I think for me the only thing that has ever worked has been to write a list of things I have to achieve, what I need to do NOW to achieve that – and then I just sit down and DO IT. No excuses, nothing.

Believe me, I have tried everything – this is all that works (or doesn’t work, because right now I should be writing a post – but oh no, I got an email – and here I am :)

SEE!!! (maybe I do need to heed this post after all LOL)

Steve Scott

Your right… a Big tip might be to avoid my Monday posts… errr schedule them. Yes schedule them. And retweet. Yes, retweet. ;)

Actually you “method” is a good one:

“write a list of things I have to achieve, what I need to do NOW to achieve that – and then I just sit down and DO IT.”

That leads to “on-time” learning as well as…well getting it done. One thing I hate is all theory and no action. I have always been of a mind that it is better to get out there and try -and muck up it- rather rather than wait until you are able to do things perfectly (because that never happens)

Fran the Online Writer

Hi Steve:

Such a great treasure of strategies that it can overcome Information overload for sure. But again how many things to apply and when to think about them.
I have book marked the post for reference as needed to use.

Your writing is awesome.

Fran A

Steve Scott

Thanks Fran,

As always I appreciate your kind words and sentiments!

Timo Kiander

Great tips here Steve!

I love the actionable approach that you have taken.

I have been guilty of buying too many information products without taking any action, but I guess that was because I didn’t have a clear goal where I wanted to be and what to achieve.

I’m definitely looking at things from businesses perspective now and I have been able to get rid of 80% of material I don’t need. The rest 20% is something I want to focus on.

For example, I wanted to expand my content creation to podcasting, so I went out, bought a training course, implemented it’s lessons and now I’m producing podcasts. I feel good about myself because I took action :)

Steve Scott

Timo,

Thanks for the comment. Action is the secret I think. It is hard to say “doing” something is wrong if action is taken. Even if it ends up being a mistake. A lesson has been learned.

YOur method for learning your podcasting is spot-on. Once people get the big-picture (which I know you have) it is just a matter of polishing or updating those pieces that could use a little, “sparkle”

Thanks for dropping by

Kristi Hines@Blog Marketing

Great plan Steve! It is easy to get overwhelmed, consume a ton of information and never do anything with it. When I read something I want to apply to my own strategy, I try to either do it right then, or add it to my task list referencing the article to do within the next day or two. Because once you apply one thing, you get in the mood to take action on other things as well. I do at least. :)

Steve Scott

Kristi,

Thanks for the comment, I appreciate your stopping by. It is certainly best to learn things in an “on-time” manner. Not only does it cycle out the extraneous garbage, but it really reinforces the learning and makes sure that you are DOING rather than just talking about it.

Thanks,

Steve

Matthew Needham

Hi Steve, interesting and useful article. I think the actionable points item is spot on, especially when coupled to your action and project list, but focus has got to be the key. Many times I try to boil the ocean, but get disappointed with the results… :-)

Matthew

Steve Scott

Very true. Focus is key. Everyone can come up with their own unique way to handle TMI (too much information) but there HAS to be some sort of system and some sort of focus or it simply becomes too much.

Ted@Souris ergonomique

The most important tip for me is tip number 3 : staying focused on a project and not beginning several projects at a time. And even if you know this rule, it’s still very difficult to stick with it.

Steve Scott

True. We all get excited by the “new” idea and get distracted at times. It happens. The important thing is to at least “try” to stick to it. Thanks for the comment Ted!

Justin@Mazzastick

I went through a minimalist change several years ado and never looked back. Less is better and more as far as I am concerned.

I had read so many books on personal development, metaphysical studies, spirituality and so on I couldn’t keep up.

Now I take a more practical approach to learning so that I can easily put the ideas into action.

Steve Scott

Justin,

Less is better in many ways. I have pulled back from complete minimalism a little but, but tons of crap is not for me. In many ways i feel i was the most efficinet for the 8 months i was tralevling with just pen, paper and laptop.

Janet @ The Natural Networker

Steve, aloha. What a terrific diet! Virtually all of us suffer from the obesity of information overload.

#s 5, 6 and 7 are the why and how this diet works. Easy to do/easy not to do.

Thx so much, Steve, for this diet for success. Aloha. Janet

Steve Scott

Thanks Janet,

5 and 6 definitely are the “secret”. As you point out, they are not “hard” to do, but it is hard to make it part of your routine. So hard/not hard. Thanks for the comment and hope it gives you a few ideas to cut down the information overload.

Steve

jane from faux floral arrangements

Steve, a very useful post. Information overload has definetly been a problem for me; I will take your advice and narrow down what I need to know and concentrate on that until I get it. I think I’m subscribed to too many blogs, and I certainly get far too many emails! Time to weed I think. Thanks for some excellent advice.

Lesley from Lesley Writes

Steve, this is a great post as always, just one thing I wanted to add to one of your snippets of excellent advice. There are good reasons to read published books, yes, the old fashioned kind.
If you want information on a subject, it has to be accurate. Traditional publishing houses go through a review process to ensure the quality of their books – I remember the procedure with my first, it took ages! This is a big problem when it comes to technical information which can easily become out of date before the book is actually published, but for everything else, it’s good to know that publishers check stuff, usually with other experts in the field. I love e-books as you know, but sometimes there are advantages in the traditionally published variety, if you want ebook functionality (and who doesn’t want to be able to search text properly) buy the kindle version.

Duy Nguyen@M-Audio Studiophile AV40

I’m so happy Steve :D This blog post is the exact thing I’m searching for. I’m now focusing on SEO and to be honest, there are so many tasks involved. From niche research, keyword research, competition analysis to writing content. And to do all of them requires a steep learning curve. If I just sit there are keep reading I would never make anything done! Thanks for reminding us this important concept. Proper information and taking actions form a perfect pack!

Steve Scott

Duy,

I feel ya! There certainly is a steep learning curve. (I too have done all of that) Fotunately you see that a lot of it can be fixed -after- and it is better to take action now and tweak later…because sitting trying to make things perfect is simply a waste of time.

Thanks for dropping by and commenting, hope to see you here again!

Henry

You’ve got a very valuable advise there Steve. There are many interesting videos and articles you’ll come across while surfing the net and if you’re not careful, you’ll see yourself wasting a lot of time.

What I usually to to avoid information overload is to have a special folder where I save any valuable webpage that I find. This way, whenever I decide to perform a specific task like building backlinks, I won’t get caught in an endless web of information.

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