One simple solution-specialisation and generalisation. Ok that is two solutions and they are completely contradictory but never mind (a bit like Mastermind- a general knowledge and a specialist subject)
1) Specialisation- by limitation to a study area (e.g. Beddington Farmlands and the Azores in my case) or limitation by a group to study (e.g. Gulls, Seabirds, Birds of the WP, vagrants in my case)
1) Generalisation- to have a working knowledge of the environment you are studying in. In my case I just read the relevant (to my specialisation) non-specialist literature (and mainly read what jumps out the page at me) - so my reading list is Birdwatch, British Birds, Dutch Birding, British Willdife, Atropos, LNHS publications, Butterfly conservation, Waterlife (WWT), BBC Wildlife, BTO stuff, The Independent, Private Eye and on line my Facebook stream, my blog list, Darryl Spittle's twitter feed, my favourite links, Mark Avery blog and Birding Frontiers. I also try and keep an eye on mainstream society interests by reading the Sun, watching popular movies, TV shows (mainly comedy- more 'truth' in comedy than anywhere else) and by keeping up with non-naturalist friends facebook feeds/ recent gossip. Basically anything I enjoy!
Basically infinite complexity is a head f#ck but luckily my brain seems to be programmed to deal with it. If I try and go off in too many directions or take too much on (spread myself too thin) I have a mini-mental breakdown and chaos starts to reign and if I don't travel far enough (by being a lazy sluggard) I have a mini-mental breakdown and chaos starts to reign. There seems to be a conscious space I am comfortable in and if I step outside it I'm f#cked. Appears I am programmed within the world around me. Which would make sense considering the continuum of the natural world- where everything is related and inter-connected. That nature of nature is well handy too because it means best to be working in a network with lots of support (e.g. knowledge sharing networks such as mates, i-spot, facebook groups etc).
So its simple really- I set off with an objective to achieve (e..g to help get the reserve at Beddington, to find a mega rare bird, to see as many birds in WP as possible etc etc) and then I just let pain and comfort lead the way. The only catch is that there appears to be different types of pain and different types of comfort- positive and negative I suppose (like the no pain no gain in sport as opposed to the kind of pain when you know that bone sticking out of your leg cant be a good thing) . Its not always possible to tell what is what so the signs can be misleading. It appears there is a twist.
In short- I don't really know.