Strategies for Content Consumption

Content Until very recently, I found myself with very little time to dedicate to pursuits outside of my family. If you were to ask around, everyone close to me agrees I prioritized the right stuff. However, while working on getting caught up I’ve realized there’s so much noise out there it’s pretty difficult to concentrate on just the important signal that I want to focus on. If anyone attempted to consume even a tiny fraction of what gets generated, they’d get lost in the static.

Oversharing and overexposure don’t even seem to phase people any more. And yet, in all of the cacophony that invades our senses, somewhere lies the important things that we want to learn about and grow from. I focus on two things when I read (or listen).

  1. Maximize the available time I have to find the content that’s most valuable and then…
  2. Consume the most valuable content.

No matter how much time we can build into our schedules, it’s critical to use it as efficiently as possible by carefully choosing what we consume.

So, What is Content Minimization?

Because of all of the noise in the feed, I have to make sure I select the most important things to read about. One of the greatest currencies we have available to spend now is our time. To ensure I’m spending my time-currency as well as I can, I actually turn to social networking. I follow people on Twitter that I feel the programming industry trusts. In general these people have authored books or presented at respected conferences. My logic is, if I read what they’re reading, I’ll keep up with the important topics of the day.

I also use News Reader by Feedly on my phone, mostly because it’s easy to read a headline and the first few sentences and decide if I need to continue reading the article(s) that are in my feed. For those things that I really don’t need to pay attention to, I can swipe them away and not waste significant amounts of time following through. There’s also easy ways to categorize articles, so I can use things like “Read Me”, “Downtime Reading”, and “Fluff and Stuff” to help me zone in on the most important articles (to me). I keep just about everything in “Downtime Reading” right now, promote the feeds I read the most often to “Read Me” and demote the non critical ones to “Fluff and Stuff.”

Because of the kinds of things I read about on a regular basis, Google Now uses predictive analysis to recommend articles . It occasionally finds a real gem.

Store Your Lessons Learned

Evernote is an amazing tool for saving things that you want to remember. Regardless of the source (Twitter, Feedly, Podcasts, Google Now), if I find something worth remembering, Evernote stores it in a form that’s easy retrieve later. As I find new useful information, Evernote is my fast, searchable brain that never forgets. OneNote is a popular alternative to consider – and Microsoft recently released it cross-platform. Bottom-line, to get the most out of your consumption, be sure to create a system for filing away the key lessons learned.

About Jason Lowenthal

Jason Lowenthal is an Architectural Software Engineer based in Springfield, MO. A graduate from Drury University, his past work includes stints with Bass Pro Shops, O’Reilly Automotive Inc. and Paperwise. When not contributing his time and talents to his employer, Skyfactor, Jason spends his free time raising his 3 girls, blogging and learning about new technology.

6 thoughts on “Strategies for Content Consumption

  1. I have three boys and a baby girl on the way, and make my wife and family a priority. Which sometimes makes it hard to do the work that pays, and stay up to date.

    What I have been finding is that I need to keep my focus narrow. When I started as a web developer I would make any kind of website for any kind of company. Which meant I was learning a wide range of info to be able to service my clients. Today I am focused on manufacturing software, so I limit what I spend time learning to things that will directly affect my ability to service that client base. With the occasional just for fun learning spikes.

    What I really need to get better at though is capturing what I have learned, and sharing it. I love to consume information and have been very grateful to all the people who freely shared their knowledge. Because of the openness of the software community, I have been able to build a career I love, practically for free! It seems only right that I would do the same, but often find I get started, but don’t gain much traction.

    Thanks for sharing your insights,
    Torey

    1. Hi Torey! I have 3 girls (2 of them are 1 year old twins). I know how difficult it is to prioritize learning when dealing with a young family. Heck, up until 3-4 months ago I’d have called it impossible! Congratulations on your pending arrival, and all my best!

  2. I use the same toolset–Feedly and Evernote. I use Feedly to find stuff, and I’ll clip it to Evernote if it is especially interesting with highlighting and notes.

    I had been collecting various feeds in Feedly for a couple of years. The collection of feeds were so big (200+ posts a day) that it was a chore to get through it. It was also weighting the stuff I wanted to only watch (JS, .NET) over the stuff I needed to stay focused on (data, visualization). I pared down my feeds recently to a level that was aligned to my interests and manageable. Yeah, Outlier Developer made the cut. 🙂

  3. Yeah managing the time, selecting content and staying focus is so hard to do! I tried a lot of systems in the past included Evernote and OneNote but none of them worked for me. It is now more then 4 years that I am using workflowy and it works perfectly for me. The main problem with the other tools is that at some point you find yourself in “organization” mode, you create folders, arrange things and you end up wasting a lot of time. If you also add images things get bad pretty quickly. What I love about workflowy is the ability to write an infinite deep bulletlist, I can stick my learning where I want and a powerful search engine can filter my bullet list. It’s amazing. If you think about it, text is the only form of knowledge that easily survive in a long term (mentioned in the Pragmatic Programmer). Give it a try. https://workflowy.com

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