You want to read stuff. There’s lots of good stuff to read. But, the volume of stuff is overwhelming. Is this you?
This post contains tips to help you manage a specific area of your developmental reading: articles, blogs, and email newsletters (cough, cough!). If you don’t have a robust system with which to gather and prioritize your articles, you are probably an inconsistent consumer of information.
Like most productivity solutions, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. And, with the plethora of technical tools available, an exhaustive list of options is not feasible for one newsletter. Nevertheless, below are some options on how to tweak or even overhaul how you are managing your article piles/files.
Option 1: Don’t Change Anything
When I’m working with clients or prospects, option 1 is always to change nothing. If you are staying abreast of current trends in your industry, reviewing your email newsletters, trade magazines, and favorite blog posts with some degree of regularity, stop here. You’re probably fine.
Option 2: Read the Paper
Although electronic reading options will be discussed below, a paper-based system works well for some folks. Here are some best practices if you want to do all of your reading the “classic” way:
- Buy a clear plastic, 8½” x 11” envelope that is no wider than 2 inches. This is your take-and-go folder to store all of your reading. Here’s an example.
- Rip articles out of any magazine you wish to read. Don’t feel compelled to keep the journal intact.
- Print the articles/newsletters you receive via email.
- Print blog posts and articles on the web. Make sure you are familiar with the print preview feature in your browser or you could end of with reams of paper printouts of advertisements.
- Use staples instead of paperclips to keep articles together.
- Keep no more reading than can fit in your take-and-go folder. Last in, first out.
- Toss articles after you have read them. If there are takeaways, add them to your to-do or someday-maybe lists.
Option 3: Keep Your Head in the Cloud
Cloud-based storage (e.g., Dropbox, Google Docs, OneDrive) is a great place to store articles you want to read. As long as you have access to the internet, you have access to your reading. If you already use a cloud storage platform, simply make a folder for your articles and save them there. Below are some best practices for this approach:
- Forward newsletters received by email into your cloud system. In Dropbox, you can set up a free account at sendtodropbox.com and get a personalized email address to use. You may need to “print” the newsletter to PDF. A free PDF printer driver is available at www.pdf995.com.
- Save webpages as PDFs in your reading folder. Your cloud storage platform may have some handy shortcuts here, but a universal way to do this is to copy and paste the article’s URL into pdfmyurl.com.
- Have a desktop scanner handy for scanning hard-copy articles into your cloud reading folder.
- Use file naming conventions for every article that you save. Include the article content, source, and date acquired in the file name.
- Sort and purge this folder regularly. This is a temporary platform for unread articles. Delete the ones you’ve read or move them elsewhere in your electronic files.
Option 4: Go Pro
Options 2 and 3 above will help you gather your developmental reading into one place, but if you need to do more than read and toss, you may want to create and maintain your own reference library. There are many ways to do this, but avoid maintaining paper files – they quickly become unwieldy. Check out Evernote or OneNote as a place to store reference information, organize it into notebooks, and cross-reference. These notebook platforms are flexible and searchable.
You can be the most organized person on the planet with your articles and still not read a page. The following suggestions will help you keep your reading goals grounded in reality:
- Be stingy with your reading time and only save articles that are relevant and timely
- Schedule reading time on your calendar and honor the time you have blocked off
- Remember that reading should be intellectually stimulating and pleasurable – don’t let your reading folder become one of your many “stacks of guilt.”
- Rely on Google to be your personal reference librarian. You can almost always get the information you need on demand.
Remember that Option 1 is always to do nothing, and all changes made in your life should be weighed against that. If you have decided that Option 1, in whatever area of your work productivity, is not the right choice, contact me to schedule an assessment. The cost for this initial meeting is mine, and I’d love to talk to you. Call me at 912-417-2505 or email [email protected].
Are you ready to prioritize tasks, address time challenges, and master your information?
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Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at [email protected] or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.