Less consumption more writing

Don’t die of consumption, Learn by Writing
makes a compelling case for over-consuption of useful information. In fact the tendency to consume more and more information brings the opposite effect. Instead of more clarity there is more confusion around what’s useful and what’s not. The constant chase for latest tips and hack hampers actual understanding of processes and basic principles.
Speedreading, skimming and other techniques for cobbling (can’t call this reading) books help show off the number of titles completed a week as if this really made the difference.

What is the alternative then as no doubt we live in golden era of freely available information of all kind. Stop reading completely? Read one book per year or month?

Firstly let it sink in. I still think reading a lot is good and beneficial. Yet rather than jumping from book to book and blog post to magazine article that makes it Let it sink in, take notes on it, write down your impressions and own observations.

Secondly Read broadly. Doing a deep dive into a topic can be great for a while but to keep your mind fresh and not filled with the same information venture into different topics. Check out what’s the latest in social science or medical research or biology or math. Opening to new topics not only increases general understanding but also helps building new connections, spot trends or gain completely new perspective.

Lastly diversify source. Personally I’ve been discovering time and again that great authors and their content is availalble on variety of platforms. Hence rathern than mindlessly jump between books and blogs, consider podcasts or raio or even TV. These mediums can be a fantastic alternative to stacks of books. Because of their different nature they will deliver the content in slightly different way again providing a different point of view.

Reading Workflow

Staying informed and making the best use of the information available is not an easy task if you consider the wealth of information available online. Over the last couple of months I’ve build a workflow which helps me deal with my reading. There are four elements in my little reading system: Discovery, Consumption, Retention, Action.
The primary tool which let’s my make the most of reading and helps me support this process is Instapaper. It’s fantastic web application that connects all the dots in my system. Although it’s geared toward iOS users (there are great apps for iPhone and iPad) I’m getting a ton of use on my laptop, Android phone and Kindle. If you look for an application to manage your reading I would give it a serious thought.

Discovery

There are two primary ways of discovering new and interesting content. First is Google Reader which let’s me subscribe to RSS feeds of favorite blogs and sites. My second way of finding content is Twitter and with good mix of similar minded people I can always find best content. Google+ is worth mentioning here as well although for me it’s primary discussion forum I suspect that over time it will become a information source.

Once I come across an interesting post or article I clip it into Instapaper or if I’m using my phone I add it to an app called Everpaper.

Consumption

My primary ways for consuming content are my laptop, smartphone and Kindle. Again Instapaper proves to be invaluable tool to make this possible. Ability to access my items on laptop and smartphone is very convenient but what’s more important is that I can send daily digest of 10 most recent articles into my Kindle. Additionally if I have a large number of articles to go through I can generate a file with all of them and then email it to my Kindle. Support for Kindle is one of the primary reasons I’m using Instapaper.

Retention

When I come across a particularly interesting article or blog post which I would like to keep I save it into my Pinboard account. This is my primary bookmarking service which lets me store my favorites online and have them tagged in every way I want. Ability to jot some note about bookmark and generate public RSS for tags makes it very versatile service. The app may not provide most eye candy but it definitely does get job done in quick and effective way. It’s worth to mention that Instapaper allows me to send any article to Pinboard. So each time I favorite an item it gets send to my bookmarking service for future reference. Then on weekly basis I review my recent items and add additional tags and notes if necessary.

Action

The point of increasing your knowledge is to make use out of it. For me there are three primary forms in which I interact with the content I found useful. First one is to share the content on Twitter, Tumbler or Google+. Second way is to use saved articles as inspiration for my own writing. For that I use a combination of WriteMonkey and text files to put down my thoughts and ideas and then publish on this site. A third option is to implements some of the ideas. This can be a tricky thing as it’s easy to collect dozens of ideas and not test any. In order to counter that I try to add only one to two things into my task manager and see how things work. Other ideas end up on my productivity mind map where I collect handy tips and tricks for later experimentation.