I had a message this week from someone who has been enjoying my content and my new found enthusiasm for pinning advice articles on Pinterest, but who was now feeling more overwhelmed and demotivated than they had been before. The information overload was actually putting their progress in reverse and making it feel more difficult than ever to get their business going. Sound familiar?
Because it should – information overwhelm is really common in this age of online education and something we’re all susceptible to. I went through a period when I was listening to so much Being Boss that I caught myself talking like the hosts. While people like me create all this useful content for you, you really can have too much of a good thing and definitely need to pace yourself and limit your consumption.
So in this blog post, I’m going to tell you how to stop reading these blog posts! But before you do that, I’m also going to give you some actionable tips for getting yourself out of the overwhelm slump and create a routine that enables you to stay inspired by educational content, not overwhelmed.
Go cold turkey
When you start feeling overwhelmed or notice you’re parroting your favourite podcast hosts, you’ve got to just stop and take a few days inspirational content to let its influence subside. Spend time taking stock of where you actually are in your business and what you want to achieve – not what you feel you should achieve, but what you actually want. There are no rules to say you must want a six figure launch or to hire a team – if you want a business that allows you to pick the kids up from school each day that’s more than valid.
A great way to reconnect with the reality of your business and get back on track is to do some doing. I’m willing to bet that the reason you’ve been consuming so much advice is because you’ve been putting off taking the action you need to take, only now you’ve completely lost sight of what that action needs to be. You’re so far out of your lane that you’ve ended up in the pole vault.
Putting off the action hasn’t worked, so now you just have to face it head on. Start slow, either by writing some blog posts, making some products for a few days or practising your photography – but absolutely no planning or list-writing allowed! Doing, taking action, is a great way of feeling like you’re taking back control of your business, but also of getting back to the nucleus of what you do and reconnecting with what your business really is.
Get clear on what you want out of online education
Once you feel reconnected, you can start to think about lifting the inspiration ban. But this time around, you have to be much more intentional about the content you consume. The first step towards this is taking back control and getting focused on what you want out of online education.
Rather than go down a Pinterest rabbit hole clicking pin after pin, or listening to every single episode in a podcast’s back catalogue, be curatorial about the content you consume. Have a focus, or even a specific objective, for the content you’re looking at – so it might be ‘I’m going to read actionable inspirational around email marketing’, or more specifically ‘I’m going to find out the answer about how to set up an email list’. You are in control of what you consume.
Examine who is producing the content overwhelming you
This is the big one, and for my money the reason most of us feel overwhelmed – we are consuming content for which we are not the target audience. There is a lot of really high quality business education out there, but it’s not generic. Good content creators are highly specific about who they are creating for, and they might not be creating for you.
For example, Amy Porterfield is an exceptional online marketer with a chart-topping podcast called Online Marketing Made Easy. Her target audience are established online B2B businesses and infopreneurs who are making five to six figures and have marketing budgets and resources to match their turnover. So on her podcast she talks about sophisticated algorithms, discusses budgets in the tens of thousands and multi-faceted funnels and lead nurturing. If you’re setting up a craft business at your kitchen table, no wonder you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed! There will very likely be a nugget of advice in the podcast that will be helpful, but if 90% of it is going to make you feel like you’re not matching up, don’t listen to it.
So every time you stumble upon a new podcast or find yourself on a marketing blog, take the time to examine the person producing the content. What products/services are they selling and how much are they, how do they describe the people they serve, what do they state as their values or brand purpose? All these factors together can help you read between the lines to get a view of who they’re creating content for, and whether that is you.
This isn’t to say that you have to have an all or nothing relationship with your favourite content creators, just have that awareness that not everything is directed at you. To take Being Boss again as an example, they tread the line between established businesses and side-hustlers very well, but will occasionally do an episode on building a team or hiring and firing – I know that’s not for me and will knock me off track, so I don’t listen to it.
Create an inspiration routine
Now that you’re more focused and intentional about what you’re going to consume, you need to be the same about how you consume it. Trust me, I know how easy it is to reach for your phone or open a new tab when you’re not feeling the work at hand, but it’s really important to be regimental about how and when you consume other people’s content.
This comes down to what you want to achieve again. So if you have a specific problem you want to solve, then schedule a block time, around 90 minutes, to research that problem. Make sure, however, you have objectives you want to achieve at the end, or actions you can take out of the research session. So taking the email newsletter example again: you could research different ways to get people to join your list, and by the end of it have a plan of what methods you’re going to use and when and how you’re going to implement them.
If you just want some general inspiration to wash over you, I’d keep this to your down time. None of us can really multi-task like we think we can, so if you’re listening to a podcast while answering emails or flicking through Instagram as you’re writing a blog post, you’re not doing good work. Keep your inspiration separate from your day to day – you can either use it as a treat (“if I finish all these emails I’ll go onto Pinterest for half an hour”), or fill dead space with it (listening to podcasts on long drives or while you’re washing up).
Most importantly, don’t allow someone else’s words and opinions override your own internal voice. Keep checking in and reconnecting with your brand purpose to make sure you’re staying on track, and approach content academically. Don’t take it at face value but pull apart why it was written and for whom, and draw out what’s useful for you and what you can disregard. There is no black and white or right way and wrong way, so you need to choose the shades of grey that best suit you.
What kind of content makes you feel most overwhelmed online?
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