How To Cope With Increasing Information—And Win (Well, Kinda)!

How To Cope With Increasing Information—And Win (Well, Kinda)!

“I’m never going to another place until I see Paris completely” said my fictional friend.

I don’t talk to fictional people that often, but this time I decided to have the conversation.

“You mean you’re going to pass up everything else on the planet, just because you haven’t seen all of Paris yet”, I asked, in my mocking tone of voice. But my fictional friend was serious. “Yes, I’m going to absorb every nuance of Paris, and then when I’m done, I’ll visit other places”.

Can you see how ridiculous this conversation sounds?

And yet we have this conversation with fictional friends every day. Well I do, at least. The conversation starts like this: “You have so much information on your computer; so many books on your iPad/Kindle; so many courses you’ve not done. So complete what you have, and that’s it. Complete it from start to finish and don’t touch another thing until you’re done”.

And this sounds like great advice, because technically speaking at least, it sounds focused and totally devoid of distraction. And this advice (or conversation) of stopping and prioritising is both right and wrong. Let me give you an example.

When I started out Psychotactics, I kinda knew little or nothing about marketing

I knew a bit about advertising. And that was it. But marketing? Nah, I didn’t know a lot. So here’s what I did. I went to the library and borrowed 10 books. I read them all, often jumping between books, and completing them all out of sequence—often not completing them at all. Then I’d borrow 10 more. And the librarian was a bit amused. She increased my quota from 10 to 30 books. So I’d bring 30 books home.

Can you imagine focusing on 30 books?

I can’t either. So I’d read a bit here and a bit there. And eventually I stopped seeing the world in sequence. I saw it in layers. The layer of one book would sit on another. One piece of information would layer with a completely different piece of information.

To give you an example, one book would talk about the organisational capabilities of ants. Another book would talk about coaching methods. A third would rattle on about how to build your website efficiently. To most people, this lack of order makes no sense.

But it makes perfect sense to the brain

The brain doesn’t care where the information comes from. It doesn’t even care about the quality of the information. All it knows is that it needs to work out the connections. And if you’re reading a book from end to end, then you’re following the connection of the author.

But if you’re reading three books all at once, some weird connections are being made in your brain. And layer builds on layer, creating a system that’s somehow an amalgam of three or thirty other systems.

And sure it’s distracting

What could be more distracting than trying to master three (or thirty) things at once? And that’s where the problem lies. Most of us are trying to master things, when in fact we should be just listening. Just listen to something, and then implement one tiny bit of that something. For instance I was reading a book called ‘Free’, by Chris Anderson.

And that’s a chunky book, but I don’t care. I listen to that book/or read it and I don’t care if it’s 20 pages or 300 pages. I just implement a tiny bit. So I came back to the office and decided to implement that tiny bit and gave away the “Brain Alchemy Masterclass” away free. That increased our sales (and traffic) by 400% or more.

Nice book, I thought. And went and read another book on ‘The Talent Code.’

And I implemented one tiny bit from that book. And so on. I went back to reading ‘Free’ and then back to the book on talent and I keep reading other books. In effect, what I was doing was layering. And layering is different from mastering.

In effect, I was telling my fictional friend to go see Auckland, Tokyo, Melbourne, Barcelona, because it’s not fine to just focus on Paris, and Paris alone.

But there’s the other side called mastery

And that’s why I’ve been reading a book fort the last eight months. Is it because I’m slow at understanding the concept? Why would I read or listen to the book so slowly? Well to be fair, I’m not reading slowly. I’m reading and listening to it again and again, and again, and again.

So far I’ve read the same book about thrice; annotated it once; listened to it four times when on my morning walk. And what I’m aiming for is mastery of that topic.

I’m still reading other books, still listening to other stuff. But I’m focusing on mastering one thing, bit by bit. And yes, there’s been progress, I can assure you. In effect, I’m delving deep into the wonders of “Paris”, just like my fictional friend.

So how do we transpose this learning to every day life?

The main point to work out is the difference between learning and mastering. Mastery requires tons of time. You keep at this one concept for ages. You may put it down, come back to it.

You tinker, tinker and tinker like I’ve done with InDesign since the year 2005. You keep at it, because you know that it’s one of the things that are crucial to you.

But you must also learn other stuff. And when you learn something, you just implement a little bit.

Not the entire thing, just one tiny bit. And you keep learning, because your brain keeps layering. And what you learn on one thing, then applies to another thing.

I don’t just give this advice, I take it too

Right now I’ve got three courses going. One on Copywriting. Another on Cartoons. Another one on Uniqueness. And there’ll be a fourth on Pricing. Now if you’ve been on a course with me, you’ll know that this isn’t just some information being doled out, while I disappear from sight.

You’ll know that I’m there, checking, giving pointers, and writing new content in the form of PDF or audio. Creating new videos and answering forum posts all the time, as though we were on chat.

And at the same time, I answer posts in 5000bc (the membership site), am finishing two books, reading books, meeting clients, going out for coffee, taking week-long breaks, doing weekly cartoons, updating the blog thrice a week etc.

And I’m doing this for the most part with no outsourcing at all (I’m not against outsourcing, just not doing it as much as some people do).

If this sounds exhausting, it isn’t

It’s just that my brain has learned to be efficient because of this layering. But be aware that I didn’t start at this point. I built it up. When I first started out, it took all my energy to do just one course. Now four is a bit of a stretch, but not that much.

But learning stuff in one place helps me in another. And learning stuff in another helps me in a third. The point is that you can’t get faster and better by just trying to do one thing forever.

Your business is always going to tug both ways

You will be compelled to learn new things. And at the same time you’ll want to implement. What you need to know is that you’re not alone. Anyone who’s anyone, hears this fictional voice in their head telling them to stop and focus. And you should. You can and should focus on a few things, and then just keep learning other things, implementing when you can.

Paris is a beautiful place.

And my fictional friend would do well to stay there his whole life, exploring every bit of it.
But I like to travel. And yes I go back to Paris too.

It’s what keeps me sane in a completely insane world.  :)

How do you cope with increasing information? Share your story here.

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I was one amongst a million more service based businesses. But now with the psychological marketing tactics I learned from the Brain Audit, I feel confident.

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Small Business Marketing: 5000bc

I was wary of signing up and paying for a forum or another membership site.

“Because of previous less than impressive experiences with sites that are all sizzle and no substance run by flaky gurus. Sean’s free advice and articles are so good I didn’t think that he could come up with something even better. He does.

When I joined, I found a wealth of practical information and advice on all sorts of topics related to small business, marketing (both online and offline), interviews with experts, critiques of members’ websites and their marketing material. Sean is there answering queries and questions, sometimes even turning advice that
into an article.

Mixing with people from all over the world which allows you to get a truly international response to your questions or requests for help is one of the big bonuses of belonging.The 5000bc members are really friendly and there seems to be a complete absence of ego which is often the bane of a lot of online forums.

Free resources available to members which you don’t read or hear about outside 5000bc, not to mention free access to articles which later become paid products are added bonuses of being a member. You also get information about classes and workshops which Sean is planning before the general public is informed.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend 5000bc as a valuable resource to help you with your business and the free coaching.”
Stephen Trevarthen
Melbourne, Australia

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  1. says

    This is a fabulous article. I did a blog on focus and was trying to figure out myself how to do it; in other words, how to stop doing the bits & pieces and do one thing. This has definitely helped me to see that I am not crazy – I can read lots of things and assimilate them but master the one that is most essential to me. Thanks for the encouragement – I needed that!

    • says

      Joyce, the Internet and most of the things we do are interconnected. Focus is nice, but often it’s overrated. You need to do many things at a time so you can do one thing even better.

  2. says

    Great article. I like how reading multiple books makes for connections across huge informational gaps.

    So what’s the book you’re reading over and over again for mastery these days?

    • says

      I knew someone would ask that question :)

      It’s ‘Switch’ by the Heath Brothers. I’ve only just ‘stopped’ reading it. But I’ll go back later. I’ve been a little distracted and not been reading that much in the past week or so, but I’ll be back.

        • says

          It’s a really good book. But to really wring out information out of a book, I have to read slowly. I’m always amazed at people who want to speed read.

          Speed is fine when you want to go from New Zealand to somewhere, but with information, repetition and cross-learning is more important. Getting to the last page is interesting, but not for me, unless it’s a really not so interesting book like iWoz by Steve Wozniak.

  3. says

    I’ve always had multiple books on the go at once – some just for fun (although even novels have lessons for us), some for business, some for life and some just because I think they are cool (like Ants at Work and Quantum Physics).

    Now I understand why it works for me!

    When I need to master a subject, such as hiring which I took on over the past couple of years, I find I read as many books on the subject, take as many workshops and watch as many videos as I can. I haven’t found a single source that I felt could give me that mastery. Unless, I suppose, it’s something like The Artist’s Way where it’s about a way of doing.


    Thanks for putting it into words.

  4. says

    This post reminds me to keep listening and focusing and applying,etc.

    I’ve told people for years, “Being in my mind is like having 500 cable channels running all at once. What I do is dial into one and stay there for awhile and link it to the next channel,etc.

    And no, I don’t have ADD!

    • says

      I think few of us have ADD. But we all have 500 channels. And you’re right. It’s a mater of hiding the remote for a while, while you stay on one channel before moving to the next.

  5. says

    What a light-bulb article!
    I don’t have any better solutions for information overload, but it makes me feel a lot better about the 50 GB of information on this business that I have on my hard drive, and my grasshopper approach to reviewing bits of it.
    Many thanks


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