For the longest while, I’ve been obsessed with time management & efficiency. In college my good friend Dave, who was running the orientation program for our ROTC that year, asked me to give a class on time management. It was one of the most enjoyable topics I’ve ever lectured on. We were incoming seniors and we were talking to incoming freshmen. At the time I was listening to lots of Zig Zigler. I remember my tips included always carrying around a small notebook with you and writing down to dos, things you liked in the day, etc. I don’t remember the rest of my sage-like wisdom. That would have been the summer of 1998. Now I just use my mobile to take notes rather than the pen and paper method. The rest is below.
I always have idealized those people who would rise early and have five or six newspapers read before they went to work. Yet, everyone knows I am far from a morning person. But, still, I try to emulate those people in my own way. I’ve used RSS readers in one form or another for probably six or seven years. It is a fantastic technology which allows me to get tabs on the content from numerous sites without having to wait for those sites to load, scan the pages, figure out what I have and have not read, read the content I’m interested in, and then do something with that information. For a long time I used FeedDemon. Eventually he integrated Google Reader sync into FeedDemon and I switched all my subscriptions over to Reader. After that it was a short leep to feedly, which I currently use exclusively.
This is how RSS works. When a site publishes content (new articles, etc.) it pushes that content out to the RSS feed. The feed reader then pulls in that content and only that content. Google Reader acts as the feed reader, and pulls in all of the content. Feedly, on the other hand is simply and overlay for the Reader interface. All of this allows me to keep tabs on tons of sites while only having to visit one site. Living in a country with low bandwidth this is a lifesaver.
Generally I begin by scanning all of the headlines and excerpts on each of the category pages that I have built into feedly/reader. These are like the sections of the newspaper – more or less. Either I read the content directly as I’m working through the content and pages, or if I’ve slept late I save the articles for later. When I’ve finished the category, I mark it as read and move on to the next one. It usually takes about 15 minutes to scan everything, a bit more time if I read some of the content on the initial sweep. Feedly has a great interface for reading content. I have begun hating all of the extraneous stuff that people put on sites (thus the subtle redesign my site and my company’s site – which is ongoing). I find the latest tweets of the site, all of the follow options, all of the related content, etc. to be annoying. First it distracts from the content – which is the reason I’m on the site to begin with. Second it takes bandwidth – usually lots of bandwidth and java crunching – to load all of that stuff. Feedly is ultra-fast on my slow machine when I use my Chrome, so it is great for reading content.
Saving articles for later is fantastic with Instapaper. It is a very light-weight site which is really open and integrates well with both my phone and my laptop. While I’m working through my feedly if I am late or not interested in the time with the article but know I will be later, I simply push the Instapaper icon in feedly and it is saved. During the day if I’m waiting on something generally I will use my phone to scan my twitter feeds and my reader articles that have come in, when I find something interesting it takes three button pushes to save the article onto Instapaper (I use Gravity on my Nokia E72, and is integrated with my facebook, twitter, reader, and foursquare accounts). During the day if I see something good either on twitter or just while generally being around it takes one click to save on Instapaper (I used Shareaholic extension for Chrome). There are tons of ways to “save for later” and I have tried many of them, but I generally try to keep one basket for everything. Instapaper shines with long form articles as it will clip the text only – another lifesaver for my low-bandwidth constraints. I especially like the using the iReader extension for Chrome which blows everything up and is perfect when you want to sit back on focus on the text of an article without all of the clutter that is on most sites.
After Reading Content
One of the first things I think about after reading a good piece of content is I want to share it. As I’m working my way through my feedly generally I use the save for later feature that feedly has (which is integrated with your reader save for later) as my saving queue. I find it more efficient to just push one button and move along keeping my focus on the next piece of content, rather than getting distracted by figuring out the intended share audience for the content. Sometimes, it is clear to me that what I want to do with the article and feedly is great for that as it has most of the integrations for sharing that I need. Also if I want to save the article in (see below) I can just push the Evernote button and voila.
After I have read the content usually I want to do something with that content – either save it as a reference for later or share it. As my reference basket I have tried different options also, but at this point I use only Evernote. It has nice integration, although it is not as widely integrated as Instapaper is. It has its own extension for Chrome, but I find that it was superfluous when I was already using the Shareaholic extension. Both the Evernote extension and Shareaholic were pulling up the same interface, so there was no point in using them both. Evernote has a desktop app, but my laptop is old and doesn’t have much RAM so mainly I use the web app in Chrome as it is lighter. Evernote allows you to organize articles using the best scenario (for me): both categories and tagging. Some others delicious, digg, instapaper, use only one of the two organizing methods, but I prefer Evernote’s dual-nature for referencing articles. I also use Evernote as my current notepad to remember random crap – although it doesn’t have a Symbian app that will be cured when I am able to grab an Android phone. The last thing I like about Evernote is that it allows you to share your notebooks, which we use for our company.
Sharing, sharing, sharing. Blah, blah, blah. Here’s how I do it, at any rate. I mainly use Hootsuite to monitor all of my networks. My only current gripe about Hootsuite is that they have not yet integrated with Buzz. Hootsuite generally does everything well. What I tend to do after I’ve read everything in my feedly that I want to read, is I go to my saved items in feedly and then work through them. Generally I will press the tweet button in feedly and that will shorten the URL (using bit.ly not Hootsuite’s proprietary shortener, ow.ly) and grab the title of the article. Then I’ll copy that over to my Hootsuite, where I can share the article with different networks by simply selecting the ones that I want. Different networks have different social mores for sharing content, so I generally have a small think about what the intended audience for the sharing is. I monitor three twitter accounts, my facebook, two facebook pages, and my linked in on Hootsuite. Each of those have different profiles so I try to figure out who I want the content to go to. If it is only one of the audiences that rather than using Hootsuite I will just share the article directly from feedly. The other feature I use a lot on Hootsuite is the scheduling feature. Since I’m seven hours ahead of East Coast time in the US, and many of my friends are there, I generally delay some of my sharing to the afternoon my time, which is the morning their time. Also because I do my news sweep mostly in the morning, I want to space that content sharing out over the day rather than flooding my feeds only in the morning.