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It is important to know what is new in my scope of interest related to my work. But the problem is that there is so much information on internet and in magazines which I can read that I often spend too much time reading them. That makes my productivity much worse. I lose a lot of time and I feel that I don't know anything new.

How should I best organize a productive work day to stay informed? (Should I plan for half an hour in day to find out what's new, or is there another way?)

And maybe it would be useful to filter information and read only those ones which are most valuable for me. But how to distinguish good articles from the bad, useless ones? Should I filter by the author, by popularity of community, by keywords, or by past experience? How would I get this best overview of authors and articles?

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I think that this question is too vague to be answerable –  Casebash Mar 18 '12 at 12:30

6 Answers 6

There's one thing I'm missing in the other answers: Let others do the selection for you.

This is what you already do in other parts of life: You buy a certain newspaper or you watch certain TV programs because you know the editors will have picked articles that you like.

So concentrate on finding those people, then read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, etc.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I have thought about this issue for long time now and I have come to some conclusions:

  • Read new stuff in fixed times every day, as Demian has said, for example 0.5 hour each day after lunch, or before going home (don't start with it in the morning in any case, the most important job should be done first)
  • Use an RSS reader with most appropriate feeds to you. More than 50% of them should be worth for you, so you don't lose so much time by filtering not appropriate articles (The world news or sport is not good feed - there is a lot of articles per day, many of them without any value or information you can learn and use, and you can be very fast overloaded by them.)
  • Don't have many RSS, don't be hurry about reading them, there is no MUST to read all; it is better to read one and gain something useful from it as reading a lot of stuff but in a hurry and without thinking
  • Think about text in article you read. Ask yourself, "What do you want to learn from this article, what are you interested in, how can you use described methods/products in your projects?"
  • Read the introduction, concepts and conclusion first, to make an overview about article
  • Highlight the interested parts of articles, it improves readability, concentration - I use for example "Wired-Marker" plugin to Firefox
  • Notice the author of article and find out, whether this author writes often articles you are interested in or not, and than you can use this experience by filtering your articles, you can follow the articles from your most popular authors
  • Notice the "popularity" of article before reading it - how many people had read it, how many people share and encourage it or what mark (how many stars) gains this article (so use opinion of other people who already read that article)
  • Articles are useful for staying in touch with news in your scope or for finding out methods, products, that you have not known yet, so now you can start to learn and use them in your job, projects
  • If you know what you want to learn and improve, prefer to read the book about it - it is more complex source of information, the book was written mainly by some university professor or professional in a scope and it had to go across many corrections before it was printed and sold, so the information are logical structured and has worth information.
  • Use how to read advice.

Firstly, you will spend more time by finding appropriate sources of articles, by finding out which authors has useful information for you, which feeds are good, who to follow and so on, but then, you will have your target group and you won't spend so much time by filtering.

Don't forget to track the usefulness of sources all the time - you would find, that one of your source has no more appropriate information for you (you read for example only every tenth article) or your popular author don't work in your scope of interest anymore and you are only spammed by his articles and so on.

Use Pareto efficiency, because maybe your nowadays system has these results:

  • 20% of articles gives you 80% of information
  • 80% of time spent by reading, gives you only 20% of information

Try to improve your efficiency by finding the most weak spots.

Don't worry about articles you haven't read. There is so much information in every scope nowadays, nobody can know them all. Read the most popular articles, read articles from your popular authors, ask your colleagues - and that's all. :)

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I was just thinking about how much searching I do in order to find solutions or an answer to a question. Bookmarks have saved my life!

In order to improve the time I spend searching, I have recently just started changing my search query until I find the answer I was looking for. I scan the page quickly to know if it will be useful or not. If it has great information that I want to read about later I bookmark it instead of reading it right then and there. If I need that info later I usually remember that I bookmarked it and I just open it up. That has worked wonders for my speed and my productivity because I don't feel obligated to read anything right now in fear of forgetting about it. Also, if it is bookmarked I can read a little bit here and a little bit there because I won't lose it.

Of course everyone has a different learning style and mine is to learn as I go. I also have a hard time moving on until I find the answer to something that I have been wondering for a while so I thought I found an answer to my prayers when I stumbled upon this site. I was able to do, get stumped, ask, learn, read. My productivity and my speed went up exponentially in a matter of days. My point is that you need to understand what is best for you and find ways that will work with that style.

Don't ever, ever, ever waste any amount of time attempting to change your ways so to speak. It's not going to happen. I wasted years trying to do this. If you always forget things when you leave for instance, trying to force yourself to remember more isn't the answer. Putting the item by the front door when you think of it is a much better solution.

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Finding quality information

Simple and aggressive: Websites and blogs that I start to see a lot because they are often linked from elsewhere go into my “blogs” (implied “interesting blogs”) bookmark folder. When I later seek quality information, I go to these sites. Nowhere else.

Filtering

When you stumble upon an article, do not directly dive into mindlessly reading it. Instead, start by asking yourself these two questions:

  1. Why am I reading this?”

  2. What might I need this information for?”

If you’ve determined that the article might be of interest after that, then quickly skim through it, you will get most of the article’s idea using the least of your time by searching for the following: Title, first paragraph (read quickly, don’t bother trying to getting it all), bullet points/numbered lists inside the article, and conclusion.

The two above technique are from the book 10 Days to Faster Reading, highly recommended for us voracious information consumers. :)

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Many articles will not be worth your time (anyone can host their own blog or site now). You could save time by using a news feed service like the Pulse app for Android.

The easiest way to determine good article from bad is to examine the following:

  • Is the site a well-reputed site? If so, the article is probably good quality. Is it a CNN article with sources or a free-good-advice-articles-for-free.info article? (not a real site, btw)
  • What is the author's background/education? Are you reading an article from a PhD student or a high school dropout?
  • What commentary has been left on the article? Usually people are quick to point out flaws.
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Read the headline, the first paragraph and the last paragraph. These mostly contain all the info you need, The moment you decide the article is bad, skip it. Don't read any further.

Also try to read your articles on a fixed time each day. Don't read articles any other time than the time you have assigned to it. Breaking this law will seriously harm your productivity.

As for information overload. Don't read any articles at all, just ask a colleage with the same line of work: 'Did something important happend in the world we work in?' Chances are, he will tell you in 5 minutes all the important stuff that happened. If he doesn't has anything to tell, then you didn't miss a thing.

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+1 for don't read the article, but instead ask a colleague. –  JakeParis Mar 16 '12 at 14:10
    
thank you for answer, you gave useful points, to read in a fixed time, to read only headlines and first, last paragraph, but to ask only colleague I don't see as the best solution - you will never contribute with nothing new, there is need to study on your own as well –  srnka Mar 19 '12 at 12:43
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If the colleague can tell you that: how does he know? Will he be willing to do all the work and give you your 5 minute summary each day? How can you trust his answers? –  xmjx Jul 5 '12 at 5:08

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