You may have heard that one of the secrets of productivity refers to the 3 D’s- do it, dump it, or delegate it. This three step model certainly can help you get a lot accomplished- which is good. However, where the model doesn’t work is in the place where you can’t decide what needs to be done- perhaps because you don’t have enough information, or because you are concerned about missing out on something if you make a decision. These fourth types of decisions- what I call deferred decisions- can pile up and create a lot of noise in your life. They may create physical clutter- as in a bunch of things you cut out and save, but never actually use, or they simply may create psychic clutter, where you are constantly carrying around some ideas that you never act on.
Whatever the reason, it’s easy to get caught up in a lot of deferred decisions. Sometimes life and business is moving so fast that you “hold”, “table” or “bookmark” things in order to save them- with the honest intention of returning to them in the future- but you actually never do.
You might, sometimes, feel like you have to hold onto things or “save” them- because you’ll need them later.
In effect, you’re setting up a system of intellectual hoarding.
You gather ideas and papers and tips and strategies and keep filing them away, organizing them, sorting them- but you never actually take action on them.
I’ve done this myself.
And what I find, again and again, is that this type of intellectual hoarding doesn’t really do any good. Inevitably, I can’t easily find what I’m looking for if I do need it, and many times I come back to something and can’t really recall the energetic pull that initially led me to save it.
Like it or not, we’re always changing, and the information and approaches which seemed so interesting a few months ago may not continue to hold our interest as we go forward.
And if we’ve insisted on saving a bunch of stuff as security against an unknown future, we end up, at some point, having to take time and energy to sort through that stuff and decide what to continue to save. And if we save more than we need, again, we set ourselves up for a regular cycle of using energy over and over to process stuff we are delaying making decisions on.
Likewise, we can get caught up in the energy of learning how everyone else did something and never actually try anything we learn for ourselves. I know of colleagues, for instance, who save clippings from tens of hundreds of blogs, social media updates, trainings, seminars- and they create ever burgeoning digital files, folders, and repositories of data. With technology making storage so cheap, this becomes easier all the time. We become less thoughtful about what we retain, simply because saving it is easier and cheaper than deciding in the moment about its ongoing worth and value.
If we feel overloaded by information, it is, I think, because we are trying to assimilate too much stuff from too many sources in too little time.
I ask you- when you are trying to learn about something new, whether it be how to use Twitter, Facebook marketing, or how to blog- do you *really* need to read and save 150 articles which basically say the same thing? No, you don’t. Instead of cramming all this information into your mind just because it’s there, why not select maybe 6-8 articles to read, glean what you can from them, implement what you learn, and then go back for more when you’re ready? When you are gathering information on a topic, the point at which the content starts repeating itself is the point where you are unlikely to find anything new.
This approach to information means you have to be discerning in the moment. It means that you have to make some decisions in real time, rather than just saving a bunch of links to look at some other time.
The main reason I raise this is because deferred decisions are business expensive. They result in hours of lost productivity, time spent feeling unclear and foggy, and do nothing to increase our sense of self confidence in our own capabilities and decision-making. In a way, collecting information like this keeps us stuck in the fear that we’re missing out on something we absolutely must know.
By becoming more comfortable with making decisions in the moment, and building our tolerance for thoughtful risk taking, we can reduce our reliance on piles of information we never use anyway. This, in turn will free up time, space, and energy to be productive and creative in the distinct and worthwhile ways that really matter- and make a difference- to us and the businesses we want to create.