Information overload rules the Internet. Go do a Google search for any one of your favorite topics right now. How many results do you see?
It’s easy to get obsessed with absorbing every piece of knowledge that we can. But that doesn't help us get anything done. The more you read, the more that gets lost in the bottomless repository that is your brain (or Pinterest board, Evernote account, etc). It’s totally inefficient.
Be honest, how many unsorted articles on blogging strategy do you have saved in Evernote or your bookmarking tool of choice? Instead of adding more and more links to the mountain, there's a better way to learn what you need to – with Just in Time information.
What Does "Just in Time" Mean?
The term Just in Time originated in business. According to Logistik, Taiichi Ohno, president of Toyota in the 1970s, came up with the system to reduce waste, save time and save space by producing only what was needed and producing and delivering it when needed. So what does that have to do with learning and blogging?
Just in Case vs. Just in Time
Let's accept for a minute that blogging is one more thing you have to learn, just like you learned English and Math at school. What's the best way to learn it? In the world of academia, the current debate focuses on the difference between just in case learning and just in time learning. Just in case learning is where you attend class and learn a bunch of things, many of which you may never use. For example, those of us who aren't engineers and who hate DIY probably never needed all that geometry we learned in school.
But there are a number of reasons why just in case learning doesn't work. For example, learning everything about a topic is very time consuming. And because you can't apply the information immediately you may not be motivated to learn it. And as I said before, you just can't absorb it all.
The Benefits of Just in Time Learning
That's where just in time learning comes in. Go find information as soon as you need it. Stop focusing on hoarding. Collect information to execute as quickly as you can.
There's no time wasted on stuff you don't need to know. Instead, the learning is very targeted and focused. You can apply it immediately, which is the best way to both achieve your task and get the learning into your head. It makes your learning more active. And instead of sitting in a classroom, you can learn what you need to know right before you use it. As Bob Mosher says, the point of just in time learning is to get the task done. Or, as Matt Dickenson describes it, it's learning at the point of need.
How would this work in blogging? Suppose you wanted to add social sharing buttons to your WordPress blog. All you would need would be a guide to tell you the steps to follow to do this. That's how this person learned to tie a bowtie, by using a YouTube video.
And if you want to write a headline that will get read, then you could download a headline hacks report when you needed it and apply the knowledge immediately. Information on the science of headline writing can wait.
8 Tips on Rocking Just in Time Learning
Of course, in order to make this work, you have to get organized. Here's what to do.
1. Structure your searches
Learn to use search operators to find information that's actually useful. In Google, use the search tools and set the search period to the past year or month to avoid outdated information. There's no point in finding WordPress tips from five years ago when you are using the latest version.
2. Find the right research sources
If you have to collect information, then collect it from the right places. If you're working with WordPress, for example, one of your go-to sources will be the WordPress Codex. A general Google search or looking for information on Quora might also help.
3. Create actionable collections with bookmarks
Whether you bookmark in your browser or via a web interface, one of the issues people face is that they end up with a long unsorted list. It doesn't have to be that way. In your browser, arrange bookmarks in folders according to the task you have to do and name them accordingly so you can find them easily. Online, use folders, keywords and tags so that you can find exactly the right information when you need it.
4. Aggregate information on key topics
Use a tool like Scoop.it to automatically find information on blogging sub-topics. While those tools are meant for social sharing, there's no reason why you can't use them for research and get an at-a-glance view of the relevant headlines.
5. Learn to speed read
Speed reading helps you get the gist of any article in just a couple of minutes. Not only is it a technique that anyone can learn, but it's a great way to pick out the nuggets of wisdom while discarding the dross.
6. Watch demo videos
Watching video demonstrations or screencasts is a great way to absorb the information you need before putting it into action. When you watch a video you retain about 68% of what you see and hear, making it a great tool for just in time learning.
7. Focus like a laser
Concentrate on one thing at a time. When you need to set up your blog, read only what you need to help you accomplish that task. Wait till you have completed it before moving onto the next thing.
Does all this mean that just in time learning totally replaces just in case learning? Not at all. Both systems can work together – as John D Cook points out you still have to know what's available even if you're not going to access the information right now. But if you want to execute tasks and not just collect information, just in time is the way to go.
8. Trim the Fat in Other Areas
Time is valuable. In an ideal world every moment would be spent getting smarter or getting things done. You need tools and technology to keep this process moving forward. If you’re on a sales team, for instance, use a tool like Speak2Leads to trim the amount of time you spend collecting and managing names of prospective buyers. If you’re running a team, use a project management tool like Asana to streamline communication and status updates.
Final Thoughts: Do What Works for You
Not a speed reader? No problem. Love to focus by putting on headphones with white noise? Awesome. Just in time learning means adopting the right strategy for you. Focus on what best complements your existing learning style.
Chris Kilbourn the CEO and lead growth strategist at TOFU Marketing. In past lives, he was a professional rockstar (seriously) and built and scaled 3 successful companies from the ground up.