Your eyes are swollen, burning and bloodshot. Your brain has all but gone on strike.
You’ve just spent the last six, seven, maybe even thirteen hours researching important data you need for a project. Or maybe you’ve been trying to learn the details of a certain strategy. Or the ins and outs of specific techniques for marketing your next product.
The only problem is you can hardly remember anything you’ve read. And worse than that, the stuff you can recall seems to have no relation to anything you’re working on.
In fact, for a split second in time, you’re not even sure what you were working on in the first place.
Only one thing to do. Get some sleep and get back to it in the morning.
Ever Been There?
You can probably still even feel your eyes burning.
This is just one manifestation of the performance-slayer known as information overload.
The feeling of being crushed under a never-ending landslide of data and details, facts and steps that you surely need to know to accomplish whatever it is you’re after.
I’m going to tell you how to beat it in this post. How to crush that obstacle that frustrates, confuses, and practically paralyzes you into non-action.
But I need to tell you something about information overload first. Another rather uncomfortable truth about the whole complaint.
It ain’t the information’s fault.
When was the last time you heard a book shouting at you from the bookshelf “I’m warning you. You better not start yet. Not until you’ve read every last word between my covers!!”
Information doesn’t demand you read and research everything possible on any topic.
You and you alone do!
You’re the one who insists that you keep reading and studying and researching and piling the information higher and higher until it finally collapses down on you blotting out the sun. You’re the one who pushes on and on in your quest for knowledge until you’ve consumed every detail and covered every possible aspect of whatever it is you THINK you have to know to take so much as a first step.
Yep. I’m pointing a finger. And I’ve got more bad news.
You do because you’ve been infected by the dreaded “Know-It-All Syndrome”. The need to know everything you think you need to know, and then some.
How Do You Know If You’ve Got It?
Simple. Check all that apply…
- You find yourself searching for answers to problems that haven’t even appeared yet.
- You go online to buy books and courses even when you were unsure how you were going to use them
- You spend more time learning than working
- You can’t hire or outsource an activity until you could do it yourself
- and whatever else you do to bury yourself in useless knowledge.
These are not the characteristics of high-performing people.
Some Pretty Successful People Weren’t Too Smart At All…
Let me tell you a quick story about a pretty successful entrepreneur.
In 1919, Henry Ford sued the Chicago Tribune newspaper for libel. The paper called him an “ignorant idealist” in an editorial because of his highly publicized assertion that “all history is bunk.”
On the stand, Ford proved both his disdain for and ignorance of history. In fact, he acknowledged that he didn’t have the greatest grasp of most subjects. (By academic standards, Henry Ford wasn’t a well educated man at all.)
But he also told the jury that with the push of a button on his desk, he could get whatever information he needed from expert sources. And with only that much knowledge, he had a major hand in revolutionizing the industrial world.
(Ford won the suit, by the way. But the jury only awarded him six cents!)
Imagine if Henry had felt the need to understand every concept, every nuance, every detail about business and the business he was building before he started. We’d still all be buying buggy whips.
The Kind of Stuff You Don’t Even Need To Know
(But Probably Force Yourself To Learn Anyway)
In fact, there are certain things you should never need to master. What are they? The things you’ll only do once or twice in your business.
Think about it. There may be things that take three hours or three days to learn. But then you’ll only do them once or twice in your business life. Why would you waste that time? I myself know nothing about installing and setting up blog software. I could learn, but why? I only have one blog. Its up and running. And you’re reading it. Why would I waste the time to master a skill I’ll never use?
But too many people do. And when they do they undermine their efforts to achieve whatever they’re trying to achieve.
The need to “know it all” fills your plate with extraneous information and disrupts your focus on what you should really be working on. (Everyone thinks “shiny object syndrome” is the most dangerous factor behind losing focus and momentum in your business. It’s not!)
And even more importantly, when you spend your focus on understanding every single minor detail, you risk missing out on understanding the critical basics of what needs to be done to run your business. Why do you care about the basics?
Remember That High School Algebra
You Were Never Gonna Use?
Business knowledge is a little like high school algebra. You have to understand the basics before you move forward to higher levels. Try to enroll in Advanced Number Theory without even knowing how to solve for a variable and you’re going to be doomed to fail before long.
Same thing in your business. If you clutter your mind with all kind of minute details and information about how to get things done – the tactical end – you’re likely going to miss out on the big-picture, strategic fundamentals of what’s necessary to actually be successful. You end up obsessing over details that’ll get you nowhere, instead of focusing on the critical goals that will rocket your performance into the stratosphere.
The reality is, you don’t need to know everything to get your business off the ground and growing. All you need to know – like Henry Ford – is where to find the information that you need, when you need it.
How to DIY In 3 Steps
So let’s say you don’t have one of those magic boxes on your desk with buttons that will deliver you the precise information you need like Henry Ford did. (Actually you do! It’s called a computer.) But for the sake of argument let’s say you still have to do all the work yourself.
1 Understand what you need to know…
Your knowledge should be deep in the areas that are critical to running your business – the big principles of running your business.
The reality is, you don’t need to know everything to get your business off the ground and growing. You simply need to know three key things:
- What you want from your business…
- What’s the minimum necessary to achieve that end goal and…
- What’s the fastest path to that end.
Figure those out before anything else.
2 Make a list of the resources you have… and keep them handy.
Compile a list of research pages for the work you do. Build a library of reference material that you can access quickly and often. Assemble a rolodex of contacts of suppliers you deal with on a regular basis. Bookmark the websites that you frequent for particular information.
Your goal is to build a personal knowledge database. One that you can quickly access for the important information that you need. And I’m not just talking about “information” assets.
Be sure to review your “human resources”. If you need specific information on something, is there somebody in your network that you can tap for that information? (If you don’t have a substantial network that you can rely on, you should be spending a lot less time learning and more time networking.) Remember this…
The answer can be found in a person long before it will be found In a box or a book 99 out of 100 times!
3 Finally, take action with your goal in mind
Make sure as you’re progressing, that you’re only taking the actions absolutely necessary to achieve your goal.
How do you do that?
Determine to learn the least you think you need to know to get started. THEN GET STARTED. When you hit a sticking point and don’t know what to do – THEN you can stop and do more research.
This has a two-fold benefit effect. First, you make progress and build momentum. But second, when you do go back to learning mode, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll waste less time.
When you start to divorce yourself from the need to know every detail about everything you need to do, you’ll be shocked at how much more productive you will become. How much your performance will improve. And how much faster you’ll achieve all your business goals.
But What If You Can’t?
What if you still struggle with the idea of being sure you know enough to accomplish what you’re after? If you still feel the need to get all the details sorted out before you begin? What if you’ve tried pulling yourself away from the research but find you keep returning to it no matter what?
Then you’ve got a deeper problem.