How To Consume Even More Information Without Going Crazy

Photo by Mark Smiciklas

Photo by Mark Smiciklas

Higher, Faster, Louder

As the information age reaches maturity and complexity, we are now experiencing an avalanche of amazing as well as not-so-amazing content. We have a higher volume of information coming at us at faster and faster speeds, all shouting at us, “read me, listen to me, watch me!”

We have more social media channels to keep up with. We have more bloggers writing blog posts. We have more authors writing books. We have more podcasters producing podcasts. We have more media in general calling us to consume it.

The more I consider how much information is coming at us right now, the more overwhelmed I’m beginning to feel even as write this post. There’s a lot of great content out there that I’d really like to have more time to consume!

But, we only have 24 hours in a day. We all have busy lives. We have other important responsibilities to handle. We can’t just sit around and consume digital content all day and all night. Something has to give.

Here are some strategies on information consumption I have found helpful in this unique time in history.

Consuming More Information, More Efficiently

  1. Edit ruthlessly. Become highly selective, highly intentional regarding what information you do consume. You can’t read everybody’s blog. You can’t listen to everybody’s podcast. You can’t read everybody’s new book. You may need to do a little background work on whose information you are consuming, and who is currently creating “the best of the best” content that you should absolutely be consuming.
  2. Utilize RSS feed readers. Over the last few months, I’ve been building a nice collection of RSS feeds from various blogs in my feedly app. You can even organize the RSS feeds by category. For example, I have specific sections marked as business, writing, personal finance, travel, and leadership. With feedly, I find it very easy to flip through a lot of blog posts, quickly. If I really enjoy a particular post, then I’ll save it to come back to later.
  3. Listen to information while doing something else. I love to catch-up on my favorite podcasts when I have long drives. I can usually knock out a bunch of previous episodes during that time. I also enjoy listening to podcasts and other inspirational audio recordings while I work out at the gym each day. You can’t multi-task effectively on everything, but whenever possible, do it.
  4. Use digital readers. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like I consume book/pdf information a lot faster on my Kindle or iBook apps then I do with regular paper versions. Most of the time now, if there isn’t a digital version available, I won’t even buy the book due to this very fact.
  5. Consume other content at faster speeds. You might benefit researching speed reading techniques and applying those general principles whenever possible. Another great tip I recently ran across is speeding up podcasts so you can get through the content a lot faster. If you have Apple products, then check out your Podcasts app. In the upper left corner, you should see a little white box that says “1x.” If you touch that box, you can speed up or slow down the podcast you’re listening to. I’ve found that 1.5x seems to works the best for me. I lose track of the speakers at the 2x setting.
  6. File away the best information for later use. Evernote is a great tool to tag and organize all the great digital content from around the web. So, you can always get into a new habit of scanning information online quickly, clipping it, and saving it to Evernote if you found the information even moderately useful. Then, you can find it and come back to it when you absolutely need it.

Question: How do you consume information quickly in this ever-increasing avalanche of information right now?

How To Gather The Best Ideas In A Google World

Illustration by ePublicist

Illustration by ePublicist

Living In A Google World

We live in a Google World. Need information on a particular topic? Then, just “google” it. You’ll find something. You may need to sift through a number of search pages, but eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for. I do this all the time, when I have time.

Let me give you a quick example. Just the other day, our church staff was meeting to discuss some upcoming worship services. Our pastor (BrandonPark.org) referenced something about the book The Hour That Changes The World [affiliate link] as related to an upcoming prayer service. Fortunately, I had my iPad with me, so I just pulled up Safari and did a quick Google search on the book. As a result, I discovered a great little pdf that outlines and summarizes the book. Then, I just emailed this to our pastor and tuned back into the meeting.

I’m still amazed by people I know who will send me text messages or emails about looking for a specific piece of information from me. My initial thought is, “uhhh really? Don’t you realize you could just google that question and most likely get the exact information you’re looking for?”

For Google searches, you usually need to be intentional and very specific on your search terms to get the exact information you’re looking for to show up on the first couple of search pages. If you’re looking for amazing quality information on a continuous basis, though, then I believe there is a better strategy.

A Better Long-Term Strategy To Gather The Best Ideas

Illustration by jrhode

Illustration by jrhode

Over the last several weeks, I have developed a long-term strategy to gather great ideas. This is a two-step process:

  1. Figure out who the “best of the best” are in the area(s) of your interest and follow those people’s blogs, websites, and social media.
  2. Digitally clip, tag, and save their best information for future use.

I use two tools to accomplish these two steps:

 

  1. Feedly: A Quality RSS Reader To Replace Google Reader. Several weeks ago, Google announced that it would be phasing out its Google Reader application in a few months. After this announcement was made, several well-known, respected people (including Michael Hyatt) began recommending Feedly as a quality replacement RSS reader. As a result, I set-up my account online and downloaded the apps for my iPhone and iPad. Then, I went back into my online account and started organizing all the best blogs I enjoy following.
  2. Evernote: The Digital File Cabinet Of The 21st Century. If and when you have the time to do a lot of googling (that just sounds wrong, doesn’t it?) and webpage browsing, then there is a great tool to gather all of your new digital ideas in one place. A digital file cabinet called Evernote combined with Evernote Web Clipper for your internet web browser. See this blog post by Michael Hyatt about how to get your stuff into Evernote.

Yes, I still find value in doing various Google searches and web clipping. Two to three times a day, I find myself doing mini-web searches here and there to chase down some ideas. Or, I click on a link in somebody’s blog post, and then all of a sudden, I’m 10 sites deep in link clicks and Evernote web clippings. I’m sure you can possibly relate.

But, I’m also finding myself combining the power of Feedly with Evernote. So, when I run across a great blog post in my Feedly reader, then I’ll forward that post on to my Evernote account, where I can tag the information with appropriate tag topics for future reference. The whole process is very fast and efficient.

Questions: So, how do you deal with today’s information avalanche? Do you use an RSS reader? Which one? What do you like about your reader? Do you currently use Feedly or Evernote? What are your thoughts on these two applications? Feel free to leave a comment with the community below.