Everybody consumes information in different ways. So there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for everybody. But I do have some guidelines here to help you work out the best method for you to manage your incoming information (I’ll focus on just online information here). It’s based on the well-known “six questions” formula: Why, What, Who, How, When and Where.
Look at all the information you’re getting – e-mail newsletters, Facebook updates, blog posts, tweets, e-books, special reports, and so on – and re-examine why you’re getting it. If it’s no longer useful to you (and perhaps it never was!), get rid of it – unsubscribe, unfollow, unfriend, whatever.
Be ruthless! Don’t hold on to it for fear that you might miss out on an occasional nugget of useful stuff. You’re already missing out on thousands of other nuggets elsewhere on the Internet, so trying to hold on to everything is impossible anyway.
Decide exactly what sort of information is important to you. I recommend you ask yourself three questions:
1. What would I find useful? This is for your own reference – things like business development, new technology, and business practices.
2. What would my clients find useful? This is for keeping current with your area of expertise.
3. What would their clients find useful? This helps you make your material relevant to your clients, because you will understand their world, not just your own.
Find the right thought leaders, influencers and other experts, and follow them – through their newsletters, blog, Twitter feed, YouTube channel, podcast, whatever.
Don’t follow other people – or at least, have some way to follow them at a lower priority. For example, I use Tweetdeck to read my Twitter feed, and I have a special column for the people I particularly want to follow:
I follow these people because they often share relevant articles and ideas with their followers. I’ll only check other people’s updates if I really have the time.
I like reading (because I’m a fast reader) and listening to audio (because I can do it while multi-tasking), but I don’t like watching video. I know other people who love video because they watch it on the treadmill or on airplanes. Know what works best for you, so you can get the information in your most preferred modes.
Whatever you choose, try to automate the incoming information, rather than having to remember to get it manually. In other words, subscribe – to blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, whatever.
5. When and Where?
Finally, determine the best time and place for you to consume this information. For example, I subscribe to a lot of blogs, so every day I receive hundreds of new blog posts. I like skimming the posts at the start of each day, but I don’t spend time reading them immediately (because that would waste productive hours in my morning). Instead, I bookmark them for later reading – which I do on my phone or tablet when I’m out of my office.
Your approach might be different, depending on your most productive times, your lifestyle, your technology devices, and the type of information you consume.
What works best for you?
So those are the five factors to consider when choosing how to get your incoming information. The key idea – as I’ve said already – is that you should choose what’s right for you, instead of just getting whatever turns up in your in-box!