Wednesday, May 08, 2013

How to Stay on Top of Reading Material

We all want to rise in our chosen professions. Even if we have attained our desired position, staying there often requires as much effort as getting there. One of the secrets is reading in our field. The wealth of material makes it easy. The scarcity of time makes it difficult.

My professional reading material comes from three general areas. First is what I receive through printed journals or books I either purchase or borrow from a library. Second is the material which appears in blogs related to my professional interests. Third is online material referenced on Twitter.

Handling the Hard Copy
I have a decorative wooden letter tray beside my desk. Magazines, journals, and books are placed there. That arrangement puts all of my printed professional reading material in one place. While I am watching television, I can grab whatever is on top of the stack. Whenever I leave the house and could possibly have "down" time, I throw some of that reading material in my briefcase. Waiting time becomes reading time.

Some articles require some action. I want to do further research, write a blog post related to the article, or discuss it with my wife. I tear that article from the magazine. The article then goes in the tickler file to handle at an appointed future date. The rest of the magazine is discarded.

Online Reading
Every day, information related to any field imaginable appears on the many thousands of blogs. Finding good blogs is not a problem. Keeping up with reading them can be, especially when one has 50 to 100 blogs found to be useful. Thankfully, a little automation makes it easy. I use a service called "Google Reader." It's free, and all you need is a Google account (also free).

When you find a blog you wish to read on a regular basis, copy the blog's URL. Go to Google Reader, click "Subscribe" and paste the URL into the blank. From this point on, when new material from that blog is posted, it goes to Google Reader. You now have only one place to look for all of your subscriptions. On my tablet and smartphone, I have created shortcuts to Google Reader, so that I am one tap away from freshly-created material related to my interests.

Google Reader presents me with a list of titles. I pick and choose the articles which look appealing. When I am done, clicking "mark all as read" clears the list. Those articles do not appear again. Therefore, each time I open Google Reader, I am seeing never-before-seen material.

One caveat exists. Often an article is good enough that I want to re-read, save, or take some sort of action regarding it. I click a star, and that "starred" article will remain in Google Reader for me to handle when I get back to my desktop computer.

Twitter
Those who think Twitter is only about what people had to eat for lunch are badly mistaken. Twitter is a great place to recommend great material to others and read the recommendation of others. Generally, the tweet includes a link to an online article. I find I can breeze through my Twitter feed quickly, often while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store.

When a tweet links to an article I want to read in depth later, I "star" the tweet, and handle it back at my desktop computer.

One of the great things about this age in which we live is the wealth of reading material that is ours for the taking. Developing a method for tapping this rich resource is well worth the time to develop it.

How do you stay on top of your reading material?


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