this article first appeared on Entrepreneur.com
Have you ever heard the phrase, “drinking from a fire hose?” Well, that’s what it’s like when you are a brand new entrepreneur. Not only are you inundated with information and how-to’s, but you are also overwhelmed with everything you want to get done.
On top of that, you have to keep up with all of the latest tools and hot social media platforms. If you are not careful you will end up burnt out or simply drowning in the daily deluge of information.
As you move through your early stage of entrepreneurship, it’s incredibly important that you methodically approach what lies ahead and figure out how to set yourself up for success, without losing your mind.
If you are easily distracted by shiny objects, you have to implement some level of discipline. Likewise, if you endlessly obsess over organization you will need to relax a bit and be more fluid.
Being an entrepreneur demands you remain flexible yet diligent at the same time.
Your senses are assaulted on a daily basis. You are constantly receiving information, much of it useless. But, you continue to ask for more. You browse your phone nonstop and multitask at all times.
Each click of the mouse leads you down another path of information and adds to your never-ending collection of bookmarks. Each podcast gives you 54 more ideas to pursue. Each article you read results in 12 new domain registrations. You are an entrepreneur. It’s in your nature.
In the early stages, you are like a kid in a candy store. You can’t get enough of it.
But if you lack a strategic approach, all will be lost, fragmented, or simply overlooked.
Here are five ways you can handle the impending information storm.
You need to have a way to collect and organize all of the information you are receiving and generating. Sure you could use a traditional notebook and pen but you should look for a tool that you can access and utilize from any device at any time.
Each time you come across a remarkable resource, technical tidbit, or you spawn your next big idea, jot it down in your tool. That tool needs to serve as your central information repository and your best friend.
Documenting everything allows you to revisit and examine it at a later date and lowers your risk of costly data loss.
As the information comes in, start to put it into logical buckets. Organize the structure of your tool to store content on related topics aligned to your business components.
Establish folders for Branding, Marketing, and Accounting. Create a Tools folder to store all of the resources and tutorials you discover. Have a Content folder for all of your future blog posts. Itemize and categorize each idea you have regardless of where you are or what time of day it is.
Make sure you not only create this organizational system but that you also embrace it and use it religiously for your daily informational needs. Otherwise, you will end up with a massive list of intermingled items which is unmanageable and unsustainable.
If you set up your organizational structure from the beginning, analyzing and acting on the data later will be much more efficient and effective in growing your platform.
Not all of the information you receive is good information, and even some of the good information may not need to be retained.
You have to stay on top of your consumption and organization of data. You can not let it spin out of control to the point where it becomes a useless collection of items. For example, you probably have at least one friend or family member who has thousands of unread messages in their inbox. That’s just crazy!
If you let the information pile up without organizing it and filtering out the junk, you are doomed to drown.
Keeping your focus is a tough one, especially for the budding entrepreneur. There will be information flying at you from all angles. Make sure you focus only on the information that directly benefits what you are working on right now.
If you have no immediate plans of starting a podcast, don’t start collecting articles related to podcasting. This seems straightforward and logical but you’d be surprised. Too many entrepreneurs start collecting information for projects they plan on implementing at an undefined time in the future.
Focus on what you are working on in the near term and leave the future projects for future planning.
Finally, don’t let your information repository become a cluttered mess that continues to grow beyond your control. Periodically revisit your tool and clean up the contents.
Get rid of articles that are no longer relevant. Delete the information you no longer need. Just as you spring clean your house, you should also spring clean your platform.
Utilizing these five strategies for handling information overload will help you set up a robust collection system that positions your business for manageable and coherent growth moving forward.