We live in a time where information is more abundant than ever, we all know this. In fact, 90% of the world’s data has been generated over the last two years alone. Imagine how it will be in another decade. Learning how to deal with information overload is not just a good idea, it’s a necessity.
Before we jump into it, let me first address what you might already be thinking and point out the irony of this article. “In order to stop reading and start taking more action, we must first read this? And in order to stop absorbing so much new information we must first learn about it?”
Like most things in life, it’s a bit of a paradox. For now, just nod and follow along.
How to Deal With Information Overload
I can’t think of a time more exciting to live than in our age of information. We can find step-by-step instructions on how to do nearly anything within seconds. The fact that you’re able to read this article right now, and that such resources exist, is absolutely amazing.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that while new information is great, real learning is not done at the level of the mind, it’s done in the body.
It’s easy to get stuck in information mode, and it’s totally understandable. Discovering new content in areas you’re trying to improve feels great. But until you take the necessary action, until you put in the time to learn through your own experience, your results will be nominal.
Let’s bring to light two of the main problems with information overload, as well as some surefire ways to get you unstuck from your mental rut.
Self-Inflicted “Analysis Paralysis”
The classic example is the guy who decides he’s finally going to get better with women. He’s spent far too many nights alone and he’s ready to get this area of his life handled.
He’s amazed at the countless resources he’s found for how to be more charismatic and how to spark attraction.
Surely, if he just finds the right information and reads enough, it will all come together, right?
The human psyche is a stubborn mechanism. It wants proof, and it wants it through first-hand experience. In order for real change to occur, your mental programming must follow suit. This can only happen through the body, through experience, through emotion.
Only through emotion can we really metabolize the concepts in our mind. Physical learning is done through experience and developed into skill. Skill doesn’t happen in the mind, it happens through the body in the absence of thought altogether.
Who’s going to be better at shooting a 3 pointer? The guy who’s read every book on shooting technique, meanwhile never touching a basketball, or the guy who’s never touched a book but has been on the court since he could walk?
The same is with any skill in life, no exceptions.
The other issue is that our lonely friend spends so much time in search of new information that he eventually paralyzes himself from taking any action at all. He’s effectively wasted his time finding idea after idea without ever having learned a single one.
He’s piled neuroses on top of an unchanged self-esteem, when all he really needs to do is get off his ass and many of those problems will eradicate themselves.
Ultimately, this information weighs down so heavily that he becomes trapped in thought completely – a phenomenon we can call the “left-brained short circuit.”
The “Left-Brained Short Circuit”
The left-brained short circuit, while a terrible condition, is a curable one. Perhaps you already experience this on a regular basis. Do you ever become so trapped in “thinking mode” that you’re completely absent from the moment?
“What’s the perfect thing to say? Am I doing this right?”
Nothing flows, nothing seems to go right. You’re too caught up between answers A and B in your head.
But life is organic, and interactions with others should be natural, spontaneous, and light. If you’re constantly meandering between the thoughts and ideas in your head, you’re absent from authentic interaction.
If you ask anyone with a particular skill set how they operate at such a high level, chances are they won’t be able to tell you. They just do it. This is the alluring concept some refer to as “flow.”
I would contend, however, that this flow state isn’t just reserved for acts of unbound greatness by high-level athletes and world-class masterminds. Rather, everything in life should flow to a degree.
Without flow, without interacting with the world holistically and effortlessly, you articulate your every move. It’s a very one-dimensional way of thinking and others will feel your self-filtering, your wavering energy, and be put off by being around you.
Instead of becoming a natural, you become a robot.
It’s easy to fill your mind with tactics and techniques. What’s not so easy is to man up, take risks, and put yourself out there to gain the real experience that will force the growth you’ve been craving.
How to Scale Down Your Learning
All this being said, self-educating is in fact one of the most important things you can do for your personal growth. Just remember, until you’ve put that priceless information into practice, you haven’t learned anything yet.
So, what are a few easy ways we can make better use of the great information we do find?
– Write down your takeaway. Whatever you just read, whatever you just watched, determine the main point that resonated with you the most and write it down. Take this overriding theme and go out to test it for yourself.
– Pick one action to take. Regardless how information-packed this tidbit was, find the one actionable step that applies to you the most right now. Get up and put it to use.
– Don’t turn the page until you’ve acted out the one you’re on. By not allowing yourself to move on to the next resource without putting this one to use, you’re effectively breaking the cycle that causes information overload altogether.
By now, you should realize that the most important action you can take is any action at all.
As always, the choice is yours and yours alone.
You can spend the next year searching for the perfect information you need to live a better life, or you can compile that year timeline into one week by taking massive action starting today.