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Information Overload: When is it time to start DOING and stop THINKING?

There were a few months recently where I cut ties with all feed readers, twitter accounts, emails (except my business email) and a lot of other online stuff and just got down to business. Wait, let me back track for a minute. There were a few months (before the ones I just mentioned of course) where I was an information junkie. I'd read every blog I could come across, I'd spend 5-6 hours a day working with tutorials just to see if I could get the outcome the tutorial subscribed, I'd write a ton of thoughts and ideas down, I'd gameplan strategize for hours.

What I got out of that time was nothing. I learned a lot - yes - but I never moved forward with anything. So that's where todays topic comes from - when is it time to start DOING something and stop THINKING about it?Back to the initial sentence of this article - I learned that I needed to be unplugged from the world. I needed to focus solely on my business and cut out all of the other white noise that would suck my time dry. I realized that reading and thinking about productivity for hours a day wasn't that productive. Doing this allowed me so much more time - time to work, time with friends and family, time to relax and do nothing. Regardless of what I was doing, it wasn't planning - it was doing - and I liked it.

Is there a cut off point for when it's time to read/study/plan and when it's time to do/act/work? I believe that there is. I found that cut off point in recent months and I thoroughly enjoyed the outcome of cutting off for a while. But the one thing I realized was that I lacked balance. By studying/reading/thinking all day and doing nothing else, there was no 'down time' balance or any 'work time' balance. I realized that I am the type of person that dives into something full force until I get bored with it (ie: my weight lifting battle - but thats another story). By realizing these things I was able to start working on finding a balance.

So how do I now balanace everything?

It's pretty simple actually - I open up my google calendar, fill out the work I need to do for the week and then fill in the off days or days I do not have a LOT to do with reading/studying. At the time of writing this article I just finished updating two separate clients website designs and I now have 7 open tabs in google chrome - all productivity/business/design related. It's pretty simple actually - a lot more simple than reading and trying to find out a perfect method for "getting things done" that so many people spend precious hours on daily.

So how do YOU balance everything?

Is there a set time/place that you read and study or do you just jumble it all together? Let me know in the comments as I am sure there are other people reading this article who would like to know as well. And when you're done doing that - get back to work! :)

edited: I thought it would be nice to show what I'm actually reading - giving my readers here a nice look into what gets my mind running so much. Below is a list of all of the current tabs I have open.

* image credit: akaalias

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  1. Louise says:

    I can sooo relate! I have a tendancy towards analysis paralysis and feel I can’t start working until I have a clear idea what is the perfect way to proceed, whereas in reality often the optimal way unfolds as I progress in the task or piece I’m writing. Thanks for sharing your experience. -Louise, aka @ThoughtsHappen

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Louise for your comment. I am glad people can resonate with this piece. I am contemplating an entire series dedicated to the idea of DOING. We’ll see how things pan out as I have a relaunch of the design here + 3 other sites in the GUERRILLA network, plus 2 series of articles I’m already working on :)

      Glad to have you here and I look forward to your future comments

  2. Glen Allsopp says:

    Hey man, excellent post, I really love your blog design as well.

    I actually come here quite regularly as I’m a writer for Freelance Folder as well so really appreciate the mention!

    Keep it up :)

    • Mike says:

      Hey Glen. thanks for the comment. I appreciate it a lot. I am an avid reader of your site. One of the few sites that has articles I read and actually have to THINK for a while after I read them – it would be an injustice to myself not to. Thought provoking stuff. Glad to know you’re a reader here – feels like I have a celebrity in my comments :)

  3. Hey Mike, great info! I was surprised to see only one comment, because this has to be one of the most pervasive problems in the freelance field, especially with social media distractions. It’s so easy to THINK you are doing work by doing tutorials or reading blogs. Those won’t bring in the dough, but client work will. Thanks again,


    • Mike says:

      thanks for the comment Daniel. There’s only one comment as I just posted the article a few hours ago :) I am glad I’m not the only one who sees these things. Any tips on how you balance things out?

  4. Vicky says:

    Great post! It came at the perfect time. I’ve been struggling with this for years and am still learning how to manage “information addiction” with productivity. It’s easy to justify spending 5hrs reading blogs and say it’s “part of my work” but at the end of the week I was either behind on work or had no prospects. There’s always a time and place for “thinking” so that it does not interfere with “doing.” I actually schedule “thinking” time into my calendar and so far it’s been pretty helpful. Also I have all the RSS feeds that I read on my iGoogle homepage so it’s also been really helpful with keeping in touch with blogs while not spending as much time.

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for the comment Vicky. I agree – having all of the websites you check out together in google reader or igoogle is a great time saver. It’s what I do now. I also set up my “shared” feed items to automatically post to twitter so I am sharing what I like with my twitter followers as well – extra productive :)

  5. Danny Brown says:

    I wondered where you had disappeared to, Mike (but I can also understand the reasons too).

    There definitely needs to be a change from “ooohh” to “do”. There are enough people still ooohing that the do-ers will move ahead quickly and really start to benefit.

    Good to have you back, fella.

  6. Leonard says:

    I find reading new articles and tutorials a great way to stay motivated with web design/development and gives me new ideas every day, BUT because I know in my heart I really should be doing work I won’t act on any which is pretty frustrating in the case of tutorials. I see something good, read it to get the theory behind the techniques and then feel I should get to work instead of trying it. I’m not out of touch with whats going on but its more a scenic drive then a mission.

    I’m considering due to the way I can afford to work at this time dedicated one day a week, or maybe a couple of mornings on purely tutorials or articles. Work through them, get my ideas and have fun in work hours. It’s one of the reasons people go freelance to have that freedom and provided you can manage time properly when you are working and stick to your guns I can’t for see an issue. If deadlines are tight you can drop those days, and when they are free, take those days back and work permitting even endeavour to spend a whole week just having fun within your chosen field.

    Another great post by the way Mike, keep ’em coming dude!

  7. Andy Hayes says:

    Well, I batch RSS reads for about twice a week (like now) and spend a couple of hours reading, making notes of anything that triggers an action.

    As for tutorials, I book those in the calendar whenever suits.

    But yeah – if you’re not DOING something, you’re no closer to getting some money. And unless you’re a charity, I suspect that’s your end goal.

  8. Roy says:

    As someone who suffers from this, I constantly have to remind myself to concentrate on doing one thing at a time, rather than trying to read 20 new blog posts, surf for the latest deals, check the FTSE.

    I now use Google Reader, which I only allow myself to look at once on my breaks. By turning off distractions and not reading the latest tutorials, I can concentrate on the thing I am supposed to be doing. And at the end of the day, the tutorials will still be there where I have achieved the thing I set out to do.

    Its all about using common sense really, but sometimes I have to remind myself to use it! Back to work…

  9. Sadly, I’m still trying to sort this all out. There are times that I just have to turn TweetDeck off and get some work done. But, believe it or not, I actually feel guilty when I do! As a freelance designer and consultant, I’m on-call 24-7 for all of my clients, so it’s hard to create a schedule.

    What seems to be working for me is to have TweetDeck open on one computer while I work on another. As I glance at TweetDeck and spot interesting links, I open them glance at them, and if they look good, I bookmark them for later. Then, when I hit a lull (waiting for a scan or for a client to approve something) I take the time to read some of my saved articles and throw the good ones out in Tweets. I don’t think I’ll ever catch up, but I can honestly say that I’m never at a loss for something to read :)

    I do get more when I shut out the fun stuff all-together, but I feel that being part of the design community through Twitter and blogs has helped renew my excitement about design, and I’m not ready to give it up yet!

  10. CCDuarte says:

    Great post! :)
    I totally see myself in this piece. I have a tone of bookmarked articles I would love to be able to read (I catch them in Twitter, Blogs, etc) in order to DO my work better. However, I can’t do it and when I can I feel I’m not being very productive….this is quite a closed cycle!
    There is SO GOOD information going on that it’s quite hard to follow….I have created a blog just to see if I have time to organize my ideas :)

  11. Toby Howell says:

    This so me. I’m constantly researching, but never seeming to accomplish anything. I love the internet and all it offers.The contacts,inspirations, how-tos,etc. I’m trying to learn this method that talk about, but it’s difficult.

  12. Jason VanLue says:

    Nice one Mike, very astute post. I agree with you and would add that I think those that are most successful aren’t those that come up with the best ideas…they are those who come up with a good idea and are disciplined enough to execute it.

    I’ve attempted in recent weeks to be more disciplined, namely in setting aside full days for various responsibilities. So on project/client work days I don’t touch anything that would be distracting – research, tutorials, social media, etc. But it is important to build in time for those thing in your schedule otherwise you’ll get burned out.

    Again, great post, thanks for sharing.


  13. It’s probably worth a little time each day to read through some stuff to keep sharp. Maybe read about the area you are in, i.e design, writing, art etc… and then read or listen to some stuff that inspires you. Who are the leaders in your field? Who are the guys that you admire and would love to succeed like they have?

    But as you rightly say, don’t suffer from ‘analysis paralysis’, just get on with it!!

  14. Herbert says:

    It’s a very valid point, but I feel that the main problem for me is not knowing when enough is enough; at the moment, I’m still trying to find the balance between learning and doing, but I feel that learning is more important at the moment because I’m still quite new to the world of freelancing.

    I would more than just love to unplug myself though; sometimes, it’s even a bit overwhelming to learn about so much in so little time.

  15. Matt Ward says:

    Hey Mike.

    Just picked up on this post via FreelanceSwitch. I totally understand what you mean. Hours just seem to evaporate some days with almost nothing getting accomplished.

    Sometimes you just have to set everything else aside, roll up your sleeves (maybe throw on some headphones) and just get to work!

  16. I’ll keep it short and to the point, you’ve hit the nail on the head mike.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Sometimes there’s a real danger of constantly learning without any doing, almost as an excuse to not do any work… “ill just read one more article, im still learning” Ive also been guilty of this and it’s about time that i nipped it in the bud.

    Spot on mike!

  17. I did figured out this way a couple of weeks early. currently im working on 4 projects a brand-identity & website for two different companies and a couple of small n simple websites. basically im waking up early gym.. study – sketch (depends on the day and after lunch i disconnect music and working on those projects very organized. its 3 months and lots of money. when im back to smaller project ill try this method. Either way great article mike, always helping the community. always doing. cya

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