In 2010, Google’s Eric Schmidt said that we are creating as much information now in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003. Let’s also consider the fact that man has been around for about 200,000 years. This means that every two days, we produce over 200,000 years of data.
Chances are that statistic has gotten even mind blowing 2 years later. Most people today do a lot of reading and learning. Our desire to stay up to date with the latest news, tips, and tricks is hard to quell.
Stop intaking more information, and we fall behind. Fall behind too far, and everything eventually collapses.
Even today, as I browse through my RSS feeds, I see titles like:
- 9 Things Business Owners Should Never Say
- 10 Critical Traits of an Entrepreneur
- 56 Resources for Entrepreneurs
Even consuming content like the 3 articles above is a daunting task given the finite amount of time we have each day.
With all this information craving to be absorbed, how do we make the most of our time? After all, we’re supposed to have an objective after consuming each bit of information, right?
Here’s the thing: an abundance of information naturally makes us want to take action on different methods or techniques we’ve never attempted before. Maybe there’s an article on a new iPhone app calculates the odds of you getting with that girl you’ve had your eye on. Perhaps there’s a new sales app out there that will magically raise conversion rates by 50%. Whatever it is, we have the challenge of sifting through hordes of information every day.
Simply put, the information we’re surrounded by today causes a lack of focus.
What do we do with all this information overload?
The solution is to cut down on the information that we intake. By doing this, we can eliminate additional unplanned actions that information gives us the itch to do. Trim the fat, and lock down on what really matters for your business.
In short: Focus.
So how do you do it?
One way is to just say no. Steve Jobs said that one important trait when developing great products is about focus. And focusing is about saying no:
Focusing means less article reading. More doing.
Focusing means less TV. More doing.
Stop intaking more crap into your brain. Go do.
4 Benefits of Focusing
You’re probably wondering what the benefits are so here are 4:
- Better end result: No one is proud of subpar work. If your end result is crappy, no one is going to want to use it and worst of all, all the time you spent working on your mediocre product is gone. And wasted time is something you’ll never get back. Don’t let a lack of focus destroy the original vision you had for your product.
- Faster output: The sooner you deflect the urge to check Facebook, instant messages, your e-mail, or your news reader every 5 minutes, the sooner you’ll find yourself getting things done faster.
- Consistent Output: Focusing allows you to continually produce quality work. When all of your energy goes into one piece of work, that’s the default behavior. A jack of all trades, however, is not excellent at one particular craft. Would you rather be really good at one thing or mediocre at a bunch of things?
- Peace of Mind: A lack of focus also means a cluttered mind. You have too many things coming at you and you often find yourself in a state of confusion. Focusing gets rid of all that clutter and gives you a nice clean slate to work with.
Here’s an example of what NOT to do:
I want to write a blog post. But now I want to read. Oh, but maybe now I want to do a few cold calls. Now I want to blog again. But before I do that maybe I should go engage a few people on Twitter.
You can see how the above quickly leads to both a cluttered mine and lack of output. If you focus on one item at a time, you’ll actually be able to get something done and you won’t have to worry about all these other thoughts spiraling into your brain.
You don’t get results by focusing on results. You get results by focusing on the actions that produce results. – Mike Hawkins
Resources To Help You Focus
Here are some resources to help you focus:
- Great article from Portent Interactive’s Ian Lurie on how to break down your day into short “sprints”. This is a guy who knows how to really cut through the crap and get down to business.
- The 90-Minute Plan for Personal Effectiveness – Excellent method to getting your day started off the right way. Blogger Tony Schwartz talks about how he starts off the day focusing 90 minutes on his first task. Phone is off. E-mail is off. Instant Messanger is off.
- StayFocusd (Chrome extension) – This is an excellent Chrome extension that blocks distracting websites. Just pick which days you want the extension to activate and bam – more time to devote to your work.
- Sanebox – Their site outlines is best: Spend less time in your inbox.
- Remember the Milk - This is my go-to method of creating to-do lists and priortizing. I like it because of its simplicity and its ability to sync with my gmail, calendar, and iPhone.
Eric Siu is a Co-Founder of Evergreen Search, an online marketing company based in Los Angeles. He’s also written about Minimum Viable SEO: 8 Ways To Get Startup SEO Right and Why Learning Entrepreneurship is Essential for Online Marketers. In his free time, he likes watching football, playing poker, hiking, reading, or eating ice cream. Feel free to follow him on Twitter: @ericosiu