We all have some kind of clutter, with information clutter I mean 'just in case' information, and that's the clutter I struggle with.
If you listen for a while to my podcast you heard me say many times that we all have some clutter other than maybe the Buddhist monks up in the Himalayan monasteries but having some clutter is being human.
Today I want to talk about a kind of clutter that I actually struggle with and that is information clutter and specifically 'just in case information' versus 'just in time information'.
Just in case information is any information we are accumulating just in case we will need it one day. This is similar as if you keep physical items in your home that you never use but you can't give it away because what if you will need it one day?
This is a scarcity mindset and I might not struggle in this way with physical items and don't create physical clutter but I sure create information clutter.
Learner, Intellection, Input
When I did the Strength Finders Test by Gallup my top strength was "Learner", the second "Intellection" and the third "Input". In my report under learner it is stated:
People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want tocontinuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
and under Input I can read:
People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like tocollect and archive all kinds of information.
They couldn't have said it any better, the process of learning rather than the outcome excites them. That's me and I often joke if I could get paid for learning I would be a multimillionaire.
So to say I am like a sponge when it comes to information and to learning sounds accurate and i often am also proud of it, it's something I like about myself.
But I recently really realized that it's also taking a toll on me, that too much information is clutter and that a lot of information I have in my life became clutter
Categories of Clutter
Let's review real quick the categories of clutter (more details here):
- things you don’t use or love
- things that are untidy or disorganized
- too many things in too small a space
- anything unfinished.
And I realized that my information clutter checks 3 out of 4:
- I have information that I love but don't use (and we get to why I don't use it in a bit)
- I have too much information in my small brain
- and I have a lot of unfinished information, meaning information I haven't done anything with yet which goes with the first point, I love it but don't use it.
Most information I have is tidy and organized, but it's still clutter because one of my teachers once said you can't organized clutter, so even though I am really organized with all the information I have, it's clutter if I don't use it, if I accumulate it 'just in case' rather than 'just in time'
Like with any clutter, my information clutter is costing me a lot of time and energy and yes money. But it's also costing me focus, and most likely success
Examples Of Information Clutter
But you might still be a bit confused by what I mean with information clutter, so here a few examples:
- when we sign up for lots and lots of email newsletters and read all the emails but don't use the information from them. Just to clarify, if you sign up for the email newsletters and don't read the emails then it's mostly digital clutter, if you print out all the emails to read them later - and I say that because I once had a client who did that - then we are also creating lots of paper clutter. But if we read the email but don't do anything with it then it's information clutter
- when we read a lot of blog posts, articles and books without doing anything with the information that we just learned
- when we are outlining a project and are watching Youtube videos about all the steps involved without putting anything into action yet and then move on to another project
- when we read books and ebooks of topics that have no relevance for us yet but we feel we need to know ahead of time
- when we are signing up for online courses and programs out of fear of missing out - the famous FOMO - even though we are not at a point in our business where we actually need that program or information
Those are a few examples and yes I have done most of those to some extend in the past few years and I catch myself still doing some of it now.
So Why Is Information Clutter A Bad Thing?
1) Filling our brain with information that is not relevant to what we want and need to do right now leaves no time, energy, focus and brain space for the things that we do need to do or know
2) It's all passive and not active or creative, we're using all our time and energy for consuming instead of producing and creating. We are trying to fill an already full glass with more, it overflows but we are just filling in more and more
3) Once we are ready to take action we will need to read that book or blog post again or go through that online course again (if we ever did it in the first place more about that later) because we were not able to retain the information, so we need to invest time and energy again a second time, hopefully this time we are taking action
4) Depending on how much time has passed the information might not be relevant anymore once we are ready to take action and we have to spend more money, energy and time to obtain the updated information
5) We complain that we have no time but we spend the time we have on information that we don't need or use yet which in turn makes it even more true that we have not enough time and the sad part is, this all keeps us from doing what we really want to do
Information Clutter drains our energy, fills up our mental space, robs us of time that we could have used to produce or create something, or could have spend with family and friends. it might take up digital space on your computer and phone, and it costs you money that you might or might not have.
But most of all it could be wasted time because unless we are applying what we're learning or reading we will forget it fairly quickly again. We might just understand the information for a short time while we are reading it, but we never get to the point where we know it. Knowing something only happens when we take action, then we know it, then it's not just mental but also embodied, we know it in our bones or cells.
How Information Clutter Shows Up In My Life
As I said that's the kind of clutter I struggle with, information clutter. I love to read and I read only non-fiction. I read so many interesting books, business books and self-development books and have tons of ideas while I am reading them how I want to implement what I learned either into my life or business.
But because I am such an information junkie I often don't get to the implementation phase because I am already reading the next book, in fact I often read more than one book at the time anyways.
If you can see yourself in this too, buying and reading books, buying and going through online courses but then not implementing what you've learned I see you, it's hard these days as we are bombarded with information, daily new interesting books are being published and new courses are launched and we are experiencing FOMO if we don't jump on the hype.
Information Clutter Leads To Procrastination
One thing I noticed for myself and my clients is also, there is another reason why we want to read more and learn more and that is we procrastinate with it because it feels scary to do what we would need to do, so we rather tell ourselves we need to read more and learn more first
- this again fills our brain up
- uses a lot of our energy
- uses our limited time
- uses our finances
It actually takes a double-hit on the finances because we spend money on things we don't really need yet and while doing that we are not doing revenue generating activities or creating and producing something that we can sell later.
This is like when people keep things they don't love and don't use just in case, rather than making space for the things they would love and use. It's scarcity mentality, and this learning just in case is also scarcity mentality.
But what we actually need to really be scared of is wasting time, energy, and money on things just in case.
3 Tips I Right Now Tackle Information Clutter
So I have three tips for you on how to handle information clutter if you can related to what I shared here. These are the 3 things that I am trying out right now
The first tip is 'just in time learning'
meaning, only allowing myself to read or learn about the things that I am in the process of doing right now, that is relevant to me and my project right now, that is necessary in order to take the next step to complete the project.
This is just-in-time-learning versus just-in-case-learning. It is hard, as I said, this is the clutter I struggle with and that I recently realized how it's holding me back and stuck.
Now we can't just go cold turkey from one extreme to the other, that's why I teach my clients the 3 principles of successful decluttering and say over and over "a few minutes a day keeps the chaos away"
The second tip: 20% rule
I actually heard this tip on an episode of Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income podcast, and I think he learned it from someone else too but I forgot who he said he learned it from - oops sorry - so anyways, this is not my idea but it fits well with my philosophy of doing things and that is the
20 % itch-rule
Allowing yourself the freedom to use 20% of your time to explore and experiment with new things, 20% of time to read books and articles that have nothing to do with what i am working on, maybe even spend 20% of my "Continuous Learning Budget" on courses and books that are 'just in case' information.
The 20% I feel might need to be adjusted to your personal circumstances, so it could be that you start with 50% and you work your way down to the 20%. Or you realize you really have limited time and/or limited finances so you go down to 10% right away,
The third tip is constraint
it's to make a rule for yourself that you are only allowed to read some 'just in case' information once you took a certain amount of action with the information you already have and worked to move a project forward.
Now I can't tell you how much action you need to take, you can negotiate that with yourself, but I guess just like I said we need to train our decluttering muscle when I help my clients, here it's helpful too to not bite off too much, but to start small, collect some wins, do a few minutes a day which in the end will change your life and reduce our clutter.
Ok quick summary of the tips
- Focus on 'just in time' learning and be on to yourself with the 'just in case' learning
- Allow yourself a certain percentage of just in case learning, like for example 20% (or more or less, you decide)
- Bargain with yourself and say you can read/learn just in case stuff once you have taken action on information you know already and have moved a project forward.
As always, I will never tell you to get rid of anything, not even your information clutter, what I do help you see is the effect all this clutter has on you and your life.
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