So many people I speak to find it incredibly difficult staying on top of the sheer mass of great information that is at their fingertips. Any new insights, how-tos, summaries or paraphrases can seem attractive or potentially helpful, but they just won’t all get read. Podcasts can be more challenging, where they require a greater investment of time before their usefulness can be assessed. Feedly can helpfully collate your favourite news and blogs, and Pocket Casts can work to centralise your podcasting, but the information still needs managing. Here’s a few tips for better processing of resources that actually captures the best that they have to offer.
- Target Your Growth. I want to know who is saying that something could be useful and why because I generally read selectively and purposefully. Spontaneity can be good fortune or a distraction. Recommendations from people I trust or respect can obviously help, too. What might offer potential advantages, though, may not appear attractive or may not be highly valued by some. Formal study can force this useful habit for purposeful outcomes. So can coaching. Self-directed learning simply needs predetermined goals for targeted growth and focused achievement.
- Skim for Relevance. Whether acting on advice or stumbling on a source, your peripheral vision can determine applicability of written material. By locating key words and general concepts you can assess whether something is worth a more detailed look. I often use headers and first sentences in paragraphs. Similarly for audio and video resources, a scan and a quick check of the start and end, can save time. Just because a Youtube clip or a TED talk is entertaining or interesting, doesn’t mean it is necessarily worthy of my time.
- Capture the Essence. Even articles or books that I generally pass over may still offer something. The same applies to some conversations or sermons. I am convinced that we miss so many gems by not actually capturing them on the fly. Try ‘Evernote’, an app that captures notes, photos or audio and syncs to all your devices (with its accompanying ‘Penultimate’ app to hand write and then file a diagram on your phone or tablet). Use the notes or recording apps on your phone to grab an idea and deal with it later. Take a photo and email it to yourself. Write the best quotes or page numbers on the inside back cover of a book you will keep, rather than just underlining, so that you can quickly find them again.
- Integrate the Nuggets. The easiest way to ensure that you don’t lose your grabs or insights is to deal with them as soon as possible. Set up tiered folders on your computer so that you will know where to find categories of information when you need them, especially where what is stored is only what is valuable. Simple documents, presentations or spreadsheets that record text (a quotes file, a potpourri of themed information or a collection of related images for a talk) can all help prep you for future usage by investing minimal time routinely. Otherwise, many underlined or highlighted resources are really only read or collected and not actually used. (‘One day’ never comes).
Finally, I am suspicious of link bait that offers ‘jaw-dropping’ revelations, ‘shocking truths’ or similar promises that typically fail to deliver. They may offer genuine wisdom beneath a clever inducement, but substance and integrity are important foundations in any advice worth our attention. Discernment is so important in mastery of information because an e-world of options can otherwise quickly busy our lives with hit-and-miss material that is not integrated and therefore not particularly useful. Reading or following trusted sources and successful role-models will not only save time, but accelerate growth.
Remember, everything you read is a choice not to read something else.
(Don’t miss next week’s guide to presentation tips for public speakers: Pecha Kucha!)