Dealing With Information Overwhelm as an Entrepreneur

Podcasts. Newsletters. Blog posts. Online courses. Free 30 day email challenges. E-books. Real books. Industry magazines. Online magazines. Audiobooks.

Holy crap.

If you feel like reading one more post about {insert popular marketing strategy here} will push you right over the edge into full on burnout, you probably need some margin. 

What is margin?

The space in between. Times when you aren't working, or thinking about work, or jumping on Pinterest for just a minute to do some pinning for your brand. 

Why do we need it?

Because without margin we spend our lives just mindlessly jumping from one paragraph to the next. 

The internet is a great thing. Really. And I fully acknowledge that starting your own business before social media was no cake walk - we’re lucky, I know it. 

But at the same time, this might be the most overwhelming time to be an entrepreneur as well. There is literally no end to the advice you have access to on every single aspect of your business. You could throw yourself into analysis paralysis just reading reviews on which social media scheduler to use.

And while it’s great to have that information so easy to access when we need it, we need just as much time to let our brains do the creative work of building new connections so that we can use what we’re learning. Time that we don’t fill with taking in even more information, but instead focus on creating our own output, or giving our brains a break at least. 

So how do you find margin as an entrepreneur? Sometimes it’s not easy! I’m by no means perfect… I’m a constant learner. I almost can’t help it. If a new idea interests me I need to research it to death until I feel comfortable with it. 

Knowing I can be a little… erm… “obsessive" when I’m into something, I’ve learned ways to keep myself in check over the years. Sometimes I fail and reach burnout before I realize what’s happening, but I’m constantly working to build more margin into my life to avoid that. 

Here’s a few of the ways I do that...

Create something new

The way I see it there are (at least) two types of margin. One type is active margin, where we’re actually creating things just for the joy of creating. We might be busy during this time, and it might even look like work, but it’s doing something we enjoy but don’t necessarily plan to monetize. 

For me this is usually doing a DIY project around the house or doodling with my watercolor pens. Sometimes it’s making a wall hanging or some cool thing I found on Pinterest, or cooking a more complicated meal than usual. The point is that I’m not thinking about my business because I’m focused, I’m having fun, and I’m lighting up different parts of my brain than I normally do. I always end up feeling refreshed after. 

Play it out

Playing is a great way for your brain to make new connections. When you’re busy playing board games with your family or hiking in the woods your brain can wander off and come up with the solution to that thing you’ve been trying to figure out for a week. Keep a notebook nearby when you can, so you can jot down ideas that might pop up without having to totally interrupt your playtime. 

Narrow it down 

Social media, blog posts, courses, newsletters. It’s a lot. And you do need to stay up to date on certain things when you run a business, no doubt. But how are you supposed to keep up with new content coming out all the time? 

You’re not. It’s okay to not know everything that’s going on all the time. Choose your battles… if you’re a Disney travel agent you’re obviously going to need to know asap when those sales are running, but maybe you can live without knowing the latest on the Facebook Live posting algorithm. Decide ahead of time what things you need to stay on top of, and try to ignore input that doesn’t fit through that filter. 

If you can’t narrow it down by topic, try narrowing it down to only certain content creators. Maybe you dig everything Gary Vee says. Great. He’s your guy, listen to him, follow his advice. But don’t try to follow his advice while simultaneously following 5 others. Pick a small team of people to learn from, consider them your mentors for a while, and then absorb what they have to tell you. Put it into action. 

You can reevaluate your decisions down the road. For now, choose what and who you’ll listen to and stick with it.

Block out all input for a short period of time

Have you been in business for a while? Do you basically know what you’re doing now? Do you still feel overwhelmed by all the things you think you should be doing?

Try eliminating outside inputs completely for a period of time. Maybe a week, or a month if you can. You can still look up tutorials if you need to learn something specific to finish a project, but avoid taking on any more business or marketing advice. Focus instead on implementing and perfecting what you already know. 

Create pockets of margin in your day

Sometimes margin really is just sitting quietly for a little while. Try it… instead of jumping from one task straight into another, or checking your Facebook while eating lunch, just sit quietly for a few minutes. Even one minute. Just take a deep breath and look around. You can even go for a meditative walk if sitting quietly isn’t your thing, just walk quietly (no earbuds!) and notice your surroundings. 

What about you? Do you feel like you could take three naps simultaneously? Or do you have your own tricks to avoid information overwhelm?