You can't always read what you want
There's an unchecked level of curiosity which leads to wanting to consume too much information. I should know after visiting that sinister state this morning. Sifting through a few dozen articles and documents left me wondering how much information can we reliably consume and apply. In hindsight of my past year of reading , the answer is far less than optimism would lead me to believe. My digital baggage has only grown.
Here are the current input sources of reading I keep handy:
- a dropbox collection loaded with PDFs of technical docs, presentations, and ebooks
- Kindle reader with a dozen or so queued up, of which I'm actively reading a few technical books*
- Heavily trimmed down google feed reader. I subscribe to just 33 blogs but only stop in periodically to a couple of them
- Instapaper, is quickly becoming my virtual backpack on the go. If I spot an interesting topic while quickly browsing, I'll fire it off for later batch reading. I send my Instapaper feed to a twitter list (via twitterfeed) for Flipboard integration, and paper.li web sharing. It keeps tabs of documents I file away in a folder but need for an application later
- Twitter and Google Buzz provide me with social filtered data which is often interesting, but not always relevant to what I'm (not) working on at that moment
- Bookmarks. I still have a couple of hundred synched chromium urls after spring cleaning earlier this year. Most bookmarks have a half life of a few weeks or months. I should gather stats on the frequency that I use them, and delete any outliers. I'll check if the extension exists.
What to do when your inbound surpasses your rate of uptake
Isn't it obvious? You hop on Reddit, complain about the amount of crap content that is being produced, and then run screaming to the hills. Or you can take positive action, my preferred option.
Consume Info Faster
Yesterday I was determined to accelerate my reading speed so that I could intake light content faster. That would increase my bandwidth for fluff (like tech news or my posts). There's little to be gained from speed reading technical topics or deeper writing.
Documentation requires an initial read, several rereads, and experimentation before it's useful. If I'm always skimming down the center of text columns, never looking back, while forcibly not subvocalizing (speed reading 101), will I comprehend the epiphany the author is trying to convey in a meaningful way? Probably not. I could fast forward films and get the gist, but then I'm not really watching or appreciating the movie. Same goes for Cliff notes and novels. Fast forwarding commercials on the other hand is ok, but suboptimal compared to eradication by filtering.
Relentlessly Prioritize and Filter Content, or Die Automated Inbound Die
Are you reading the most important information first? There's no shame in periodic review of information and source priority. New information is notorious for educating the colossal errors of earlier assumptions^. Once your priorities are consistent with your content consumption queue, then get it done, so you can return to building/creating faster with new inspiration and techniques.
^= Mood is another strong influencer on our priority filter. If you're stressed, nothing extraneous or creative is important (frontal lobe thinking). If you're calm you not biased either way (clear judgement). If you're excited or too relaxed you'll look on information quality with a more open mind (FIFO/ADD), "oh sure I'll read that article on radioactive strengthening of artificial enamel".