Why You MUST Have Information Filters

As I went through my email this afternoon, ending up with 40+ tabs open in Firefox.  Every email that had a link I wanted to read or a webinar or ebook I wanted to check out, I opened in a new tab.

I realized I’d fallen back into the trap of “I NEED to…”

That amount of information would probably have taken me a full day to read/watch through, not counting the amount of time it would have taken to actually implement or DO something with it.

Say it with me: “CRAZINESS!!”

Am I right?

So I stepped back, refocused on my filters, and closed most of those tabs.

Here’s how to avoid the “I NEED to…” information trap

Do you have information filters?

Here’s what I use:

What topic am I focusing on learning right now?
This should be one, maybe two max.  If you try to tackle more new skills than that, you’re probably asking for overwhelm.  Unless your brain is a heck of a lot more absorbent than mine.  ;)

What information is the absolute minimum I must know to complete my current project?
If you’re working to write an ebook, you don’t need to know *everything* about writing ebooks, but you need the basic info on how to get it written, ready, and for sale or setup to giveaway.

Is this something I already know, or will be ready to learn later?
Timing matters.  Don’t live in the future, trying to learn right now everything you’ll need for future challenges.

Do I already have the resources I need to learn this? 
I am blessed to have awesome coaches and most of the time adding more training to what I have access to would lead to more overwhelm.  Sure, there are times where deepening your knowledge means learning from more than one teacher/perspective.  But often we’re avoiding doing the work by staying in “learning” or “research” mode.  Don’t do that.

Is this someone I can learn from?
There are some teachers/trainers I know I learn well from and others, no matter how awesome they are, aren’t a great fit for me personally–this is important to stay aware of.

If I watch/read this now, do I realistically have the time to implement it within a week?
If you can’t implement it… do you really have time to watch/read it?  What’s the benefit?

If it’s a webinar or other introductory training, what is the upsell and would it benefit me right now to go for it? 
Yes, I’m cynical realistic enough to view things through this filter because I know when I get on webinars I want to buy the “next step” and most of the time it’d just add to the things I haven’t finished yet… so learning the first few steps might not be a great use of my time right now.

Is there something else that would be a better use of my time?
Often this question alone is all I need to ask…

Now, there are exceptions to these filters, especially in my own area of expertise.  I often listen in on webinars that I already know 99% of what’s being taught, but it’s because I’m listening from a totally different perspective of how is it being taught (and how is the upsell pitched), is this a product/service I want to promote, is this someone I want to be following or sharing with my followers, etc.

But you MUST have some filters!

You Have Permission

I give you permission NOT to read every ezine that lands in your inbox.

I give you permission NOT to watch every free webinar and download every free ebook you come across.

Now, give yourself permission NOT to, okay?

And just focus on what will move you forward right now.  Save the rest.  It’ll show up again when you’re ready for it.  I promise.  The internet is amazing.  You’ll be able to find what you need when you need it.  Let go for now.

Your Turn!  Do you find yourself falling into that trap, too?  Do you have filters you run things through that work for you?  What strategies do you use to avoid total information overwhelm?

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  1. I do run into this, but right now I am working on stopping it from happenieng… I don’t read some thinkgs, it don’t open other things.. just because I have a focus right now and if I ‘need’ too many things, well i won’t have time to implement it shortly so it can wait for now Good idea on the 2 items.. That is a good one for me, as I think I usually think 5 is on my ‘to do” list!!

    1. We’ve definitely got to find that balance in learning and implementation. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Reach More People with Content MarketingMy Profile

  2. LOL – you read my mind and my blog post asking for suggestions to help my non-linear brain. thank you!!
    Lynn Dorman recently posted… Mazes, Connections, And My Non-Linear BrainMy Profile

    1. You’re not alone, Lynn. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Are You Waiting to Be Noticed?My Profile

  3. Agreed on the filters! We absolutely must narrow our focus on the things that really matter or will move us forward instead of spreading ourselves too thin. There’s an anagram used in home organization: OHIO (only handle it once). We have to learn to quit stashing every little thing that comes up into the “check this out later” file. :)

    1. Definitely. I know that does not help my overwhelm levels when I have stacks of things waiting for me to read later or learn later. Stress!
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What Are You Tolerating?My Profile

  4. Best post ever! This soooo me right now. Thanks for the “permission”! :)
    Linda Bartosik recently posted… I Gave Them My PowerMy Profile

    1. You’re welcome, Linda. Sometimes that permission helps. ;)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Making Sense of What “Inbound Marketing” MeansMy Profile

  5. OMG so true!! I was just making a list of all the course i have PAID for and not consumed yet. It’s frightening. But the plan is to get to the most important ones (one at a time!! )when I have downtime, rather than waste it on surfing or TV. Still, it shows me that I do NOT NOT NOT have any time left for any more free info right now.
    Lisa Rothstein recently posted… How to Borrow the Brain of Your Very Own “Mad Woman” and Get Big Brand Ideas for Your BusinessMy Profile

    1. It’s just crazy, isn’t it? I’ve found generally that paying for something does force me to learn/implement, but even then sometimes it sits and waits on me (translation: taunts me from my inbox or shelf). LOL
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What Are You Tolerating?My Profile

  6. Michelle, I felt like you were talking directly to me. I am embarrassed to say how many tabs I currently have open in Firefox and IE. Thanks for reminding me that I need to be focused.
    Adrienne Dupree recently posted… Google Algorithm UpdateMy Profile

  7. Will definitely share this one @Michelle. I am getting better at filtering. Sometimes the emails just go into a folder & I find much time goes by before I get back to them (if I get back to them), but as you said I have to trust that they will show up again when the time is right.
    Thanks. ~Debra
    Debra Jason recently posted… 4 Facebook Habits That Kill Authentic Connections (and How to Fix Them)My Profile

  8. Wow Thanks Michelle, I feel like I can continue now.

    I try to teach people on my blog to think about what is the one thing I can do today to bring my business closer to success.

    But I realise that I’m no different then any one else and some times I just put to much on my plate like right now trying to keep up with the 31 day blog challenge and keep up with my day to day activities in both of my coaching programs

    Thank ou for giving me permission to omit some of the Xtra stuff I don’t need to focus on. Great post.

    Bart Nash
    IM Journal

  9. [Huge Mega-Sigh] Thank you for giving me permission. I needed that.

  10. Read This If you have to much on your plate and not getting things done via @bartnash74

  11. Great post here. There is so much information out there, and it’s good information, but you are so right. I have pretty much stopped signing up for webinars and I move all the autoresponders that are not pertinent to what I’m doing into a file. Another thing I do is use Adobe Export to save PDF files as Word. I then go in and ruthlessly edit, leaving only an outline of things I want to remember that I put in my operations manual. Saves on paper :)
    Leslie Denning recently posted… Believe in Who You AreMy Profile

  12. Thanks, Michelle, for making me laugh about the situations I consider every day. Everyone has something to share and I sometimes laughingly wonder who is listening!
    Serena Curran recently posted… Possible or Impossible-All in How You See ItMy Profile

  13. As someone who really struggles to keep my inbox manageable this is really helpful and I’m going to implement these ideas from now on! I particularly like the last bit about things showing up again when you are ready.
    Dot Hurley recently posted… Trying for a baby? Five Factors which can affect your fertilityMy Profile

  14. Yes! Thank you for this!
    Lyn Deutsch recently posted… The Ancient Paths 002| The Supremacy of ChristMy Profile

  15. Yikes! You hit on my exact problem. Because I love learning and researching, I’m so easily distracted by these that hours go by. The hardest lesson for me to learn has been that while many things are interesting and fascinating on the Internet, I cannot follow or attend to them all without opening the door to overwhelm.

    In addition to the tips you offer, one thing that is working for me is NOT reading email at the start of the day. The next one is setting a time limit on reading email and scanning through stopping to respond only to the ones that have an immediate bearing on my business or personal life.

    Thanks for the great tips and the urging to pick what moves me forward. Your blog is one of those things.
    Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. recently posted… An expert, and no book?My Profile

  16. I think you wrote this post for me Michelle. I get myself involved in 1/2 a dozen activities at any one given point in time. Slow down, breathe and move forwards gingerly :-)
    Wade Balsdon recently posted… What Would You Do For a FREE Amazon Gift Card Worth $25?My Profile

  17. Thanks for the permission! Reading e-mails has gotten ridiculous! LOL
    Martha Giffen recently posted… Clever Blogging Ideas That WorkMy Profile

  18. Michelle, I just loved this post! I had to share my thoughts and reblog it to my readers!
    Linda Bartosik recently posted… TMIMy Profile

  19. Love it. . Best question right there. Is there something else that would be a better use of my time. I Will use that all week and hopefully well beyond .
    Susie recently posted… Seriously Easy DIY Body scrubMy Profile

  20. Thanks for this Michelle. I was ready to rebel earlier today. I’m looking at creating more structure and a clearer marketing message for my business and have been exploring a few webinars, blogs, etc.. And then I thought, forget this, I ‘ll just go get a few more clients. Your post was a great reminder and I love the questions.
    Linda Luke recently posted… Free Up Your Energy with AcceptanceMy Profile

  21. Well said! Just as we’ve learned that multi-tasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, the same applies to info overload.
    Megan recently posted… Fall-ish NecklacesMy Profile

  22. Great post, Michelle. I recently also wrote about “infobesity” or information overload. And you’re right, we need to give ourselves permission NOT to. Not always easy, but so important to prevent overwhelm.
    Sarah recently posted… Facebook Groups & Why I Like ThemMy Profile

  23. Ha, Ha Michelle. I just wrote about that in one of my posts. Because the internet is unfamiliar terrain, I felt the need to saturate myself with information and I was going nowhere fast.
    One day after meditating I had an epiphany, I reflected on how I was able to successfully nurture my four children, as a single, divorced mom. Earn a 6 figure income (didn’t even know I had one, until I started my internet journey and heard it being said time and time again and I went back and checked my 1099 from previous years) without a coach, mentor or close friend.
    It was my unbridled intuition, my passionate purpose, my super laser focused on my WHY – being an entrepreneurial mom who was involved with her children at home and in school. When I focused on My WHY, the HOW showed up. Miracles happened in spite of the many challenges and obstacles.
    I smile when I read this because it’s so familiar and I know there are a kazillion of others doing the same thing. I know your post will help them overcome “shiny object syndrome.”
    Adalia John recently posted… 7 Ways to Slow Down to Speed UpMy Profile

  24. Love it. One that’s almost always overlooked is “Do I have the resources I need to learn this”.

    Sometimes (lots of times!) it’s just fear or elaborate procrastination masquerading as ‘research’.

    Great post!

    Dee Ankary recently posted… Fresh Perspective, Fresh EyesMy Profile

  25. Great post Michelle, it is so easy to get overwhelmed with all the info that is out there. People should also dump any strategies that don’t work.
    Neil Butterfield recently posted… How to effectively manage the blues, diabetes and obesity with chromium supplementsMy Profile

  26. Oh definitely! Although it got a lot better when I started tracking my time.

    A neat side benefit is that if I want to go off on a tangent and read something, I have to punch out of my task. That forces me to justify it by punching into another task, or acknowledge that I’m doing it just for fun.

    (For example, I punched out of my web site update task to write this. I didn’t punch into a new task, since commenting on non-dance blogs is “want” not “work”.)
    Nadira Jamal recently posted… The Serendipity HabitMy Profile

  27. Great post, Michelle. The “feeling like we need to read it all… nOW” is a big part of the overwhelm!

  28. Great post, Michelle. I recently also wrote about “infomesity” or information overload. And you’re right, we need to give ourselves permission NOT to. Not always easy, but so important to prevent overwhelm.
    CHANDRA SHAH recently posted… The Foods For Low CholesterolMy Profile

  29. Dear Michelle,

    I really love your post on Why You Must Have Information Filters. You gave many good suggestions to the information overload that so many experience, including me. Thanks so much! Debbie Seiling
    Debbie Seiling recently posted… Don’t Have to be Rich or on the Society Page…My Profile

  30. Huh! So that’s what it is! Hello! My name is Gabi and I have been suffering from lack of filters aka. CRAZINESS!!
    And this is the thought I always arrive to, when 1mil tab craziness overtakes me: “OMG! Someone plz help me, I’m drowning in info!!”
    Seriously I probably have downloaded thousands of free ebooks, lectures ect. on hundreds of different topics and I have no idea where to begin when I dare to open those folders! (If I even can find the different folders..!?)

    And I’m always justifying (falling is an understatement here) JUMPING in this trap by: “But they are all so interesting!” and “What if I never ever would be able to find this info again? OMG! What if the site goes down or I forget where to look!?”

    I don’t know what’s wrong with me but this post really helped and in particular the last sentences here:

    “And just focus on what will move you forward right now. Save the rest. It’ll show up again when you’re ready for it. I promise. The internet is amazing. You’ll be able to find what you need when you need it. Let go for now.”

    Thank u, yr my hero!
    Gabi recently posted… How to store the clothes that your kids have outgrown!My Profile

  31. Thanks for the permitting me. Hahaha. I honestly do fall into that trap especially when am in research mode. I should use these tips.

    Nice post.

  32. Brand new to your blog, I have to say this post spoke to me, I thought I was the only one this crazy. I will be on HootSuite and click the link oh that makes sense or oh I have to read that, I have to learn that, I got here by clicking your link for how to make your own banners that was shared by Lilach Bullock. I sometimes have 100 tabs open, computer overheats and shuts off with everything else running. This was an excellent post.

  33. Excellent post as usual Michelle!

    And man do i need to get with the program with regards to effectively using filters!

    Because as you mentioned, it’s just so easy to quickly get lost in trying to sample a little bit of every type of information product that land in our in boxes.

    So a little in box management 101 is definitely in order here!

    And you always seem to convince yourself that you ” need to” blank just like you said! And that’s a really great point!

    You’ve asked some excellent questions that help keep u laser focused!

    Also I really like the point Sarah made, she mentioned that she recently published a post of “infobesity”, so I’ve definitely got to read that one as well!

    Thanks for sharing an excellent post Michelle! I’ll definitely share this one!
    Mark recently posted… Why You Might Want To Seriously Consider Hiring A Lion Tamer As Your Next Marketing Consultant!Part TwoMy Profile

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