There is a never ending stream of information available in today’s market and I like many often struggle to keep up with all I need to process, retain and catalog. I am constantly working to refine my personal processes for efficiency. I have a few priorities that always lead my information gathering efforts:
- Keep up to date on my industry.
- Expand my knowledge of other industries to supplement tactics and strategies I employ in business.
- Be sure I am gathering information from broad sources – those I agree with in general and also those with which I disagree.
- Make time for leisure reading about topics I enjoy.
- Maintain access to my information gathered in a mobile, cross platform manner.
Over time, I found the most difficult part of my information gathering is the cataloging of information and time dedication to feed my unquenchable thirst for information. That has brought into focus the need for specific tools, processes and rules for me to work within to make myself more efficient. Those include the following tools:
- Evernote App
- Digital Magazines, Websites, Blogs, etc.
I use Evernote, primarily on iPad and iPhone but increasingly on my PC as well. For a long time that use was primarily for agenda and reminders about clients and tasks on the immediate horizon and a quick and simple way for me to track by business expenses by photographing receipts. I hate to carry a bunch of paper and search through paper. I have recently added Evernote as a tool to handle my reading lists, reminders and other papers that I need only periodically. Evernote syncs across platforms ensuring I am up to date on each device.
Twitter is a great personal news feed in my opinion. It is also a dangerous time waster. I maintain two Twitter accounts, one for professional and business topics and another for leisure, interaction with my hoodlum buddies, etc. Twitter offers me the opportunity to quickly scan through a wide variety of sources periodically throughout the day. If I see an article or link that I want to read in more detail I will use the Evernote Clipper to clip the article or web page to my ‘Reading List’ in Evernote.
Over time I have tried to minimize the number of magazines, websites and blogs I visit using Twitter to supplement those which have made my personal cut. I work the magazine, website and blog group in a similar fashion. I will scan through the latest edition weekly or monthly and clip those that pique my interest to my Evernote Reading list. This allows me to gather information without undue delay that causes me to lose time efficiency or not give the material requisite attention.
iPad and my Evernote Reading List provides me access to information when time presents. iPad and my queue are readily available when I am waiting on a client, dining alone or my evening and weekend times dedicated to primarily business reading. Kindle is my preferred tool for books, especially leisure reading. I strive to read 20-25 books each year – about two-thirds of those are leisure reading and one-third are business related books. Switching from the iPad to Kindle helps me change my information mode to a more relaxed status as well. Over the years, shelf space has been gobbled up so virtually all books are in electronic form.
I try to keep the rules of information gathering simple:
- Maintain two book lists, non-fiction and fiction. When I see or purchase a book, it is added to one of the lists. I don’t necessarily stick to the purchase order, but that remains the general priority order.
- Find dedicated time to read daily. Not necessarily the same time but I typically read at any non-social breakfast or lunch, evenings during the week and weekend mornings.
- Keep my Reading List at fewer than 30 notes and no notes older than 14 days.
- After reading an item on my Reading List, I add tags in Evernote and move the note to a ‘Cabinet’ folder in Evernote so I can relatively easily find items previously read for future reference.
- Share relevant information with others.
Once employed, my system has become very simple and easy to use. One of the most important benefits is that I have a better handle on what I am reading and get more selective over time in what I read and keep. The process followed also helps me avoid the trap of scanning Twitter or the web for “5 minutes” only to find out I lost an hour as I got trapped in the rabbit hole of social media.
My process continues to evolve, blogs and magazines are added and subtracted from the pool as are Twitter follows. So much information, so little time (or brain to process). I also appreciate learning about the systems others use in hopes of finding another nugget to adapt my tactics.
This post was written by Brian White