How to Read Productively

I recently listened to Bob Pozen’s interview on the HBR podcast series, and one of the concepts he mentioned which resonated with me was the concept of result focused reading.

Two issues:

  1. Over the years, i’ve amassed a huge number of RSS feeds of blogs that i follow regularly, on various topics that i’m interested in (tech, marketing, news, productivity, popular science..). Everything seems so interesting, and yet i don’t have time to read everything.
  2. Every day, a huge amount of new content is produced, and there’s always a constant need for me to follow up and be kept abreast of what’s the latest.

One strategy that helped me deal with digesting different information more effectively is by grouping the blogs / information sources into themes i’m currently reading for. For example, i read about

  • Entreprenuership / Business
  • Tech / Start-up’s
  • General affairs / news
  • Productivity / Tech how-to’s
  • Marketing / Business Analytics
  • Fun, geeky stuff like gaming, popular science etc (at least these are my idea of fun).

The key principle is this: Prioritisation and result focused. By asking myself what am i reading for, it helps me prioritise my attention on reading topics that are aligned to my reading goals. I recognise that with the abundance of content on the Internet, it’s always tempting to be afraid of missing out, but at the end of the day it’s all about prioritisation. As the old adage goes: if everything is important and urgent, then nothing is. You have to pick and choose.

To make sure that i’m at least keeping abreast of what’s going on in these different themes, i assign each theme to a different day of the week, and categorise them accordingly. The category names are simple: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, all the way to the Weekend bucket. This helps me focus on reading and learning about different topics systematically, and keeps me on track on my learning goals. To complete the loop, i make sure that i revisit and tweak the buckets every now & then to make sure that the content “mix” still makes sense.

The service that i highly recommend is feedly, which i’ve been using for years. The web interface is slick and easy to use, the mobile app (there’s a iOS and Android version) is clean, simple and effective. What’s more, there’s a great Evernote & Pocket integration which allows me to save certain articles and blog posts for reading later.

Here’s how my categories look like in feedly:

Over the year i’ve subscribed to literally hundreds of sources, and yet i don’t read them all. Since many of the topics tend to overlap in some of the blogs / new outlets, i try not to subscribe to both source that will potentially serve the same function. For example, i rely on the New York Times for general affairs and news and that pretty much serves my reading need for that category, and i don’t subscribe to say, WSJ for the same purpose (though i do, but i read WSJ for the financial news). Again, know what you’re reading for.

What’s your reading strategy like? I’ll love to hear from you.

P.S: Credit goes to Julie from Family Blog Tips, who inspired me to adopt this reading strategy.


Tech tricks: Automate Note Creation Using Note Templates in Evernote


Do you use Evernote to create meeting notes? How about project notes? Or checklists for events/travels etc? I sure do – and soon enough, i began to find ways to automate the process.

Turns out that the solution is fairly simple. The idea is to create templates of notes you create regularly, which you can copy & paste again and again. Here’re some templates which i’ve created to help you get started.

  • Meeting notes (link)
  • Project notes (link)
  • Event planning checklist (link)
  • Travel checklist (link)

To use these templates, download the (.enex) files and import them into your Evernote app.

Do share if you have any other ideas for note templates in the comments below. Happy to hear your feedback too.


How i Organize My Evernote Notebooks (with GTD)

Evernote, for the past couple of years, has been the “mother-of-all-apps” that i’ve been running my life with. It’s not hard to see why: Evernote provides a native app (free) on almost all the devices you own (or will likely own in the future), synchronise its content across all these different platforms, and it’s dead simple to get started.

My usage of Evernote has evolved beyond it just being a note taking service. Because of its many API ‘hooks’, it can easily receive information & data of all sorts from all sorts of sources. Emails, pictures, other web services like Facebook, Twitter (via services like IFTTT), even hardware devices like the Fujitsu ScanSnap. Evernote has more or less, became my extended brain.

One of my latest experiments with Evernote is to use Evernote as a task manager to integrate into my GTD workflow. I’ve been trying a few setups, spending quite a few dollars (ahem) buying different apps and services, and i’m glad to say that i’m pretty close to what i describe as productivity nirvana.

GTD, or short for Getting Things Done, is the “work-life management” methodology designed by David Allen. Basically it is a set of steps designed to help, as the name implies, people get things done. I won’t go into detail describing the concepts of GTD and explaining the terminologies, instead you should checkout David’s book. I just wanted to share how my setup looks like, and perhaps you can share with me yours and we can compare notes (pun intended, heh).

Here’s a glance at my setup on Evernote:

On my shortcuts list:


And my Notebooks:


Some explanation:

As you can see, i’ve got the GTD system somewhat set up. The @Inbox notebooks holds all inbound notes for sorting later. Some of these notes will be processed and translated into next action items, which will then go into the +Next Action Notebook. More complicated items will be planned as a project, and filed into the +Project notebook. For items that i am deferring / or waiting for someone else to respond before i can take action, they go into the +Waiting For notebook with a Reminder set.

Different context tags are set as Saved Searches (@Anywhere, @Home, @Office etc..). I find it easier to search and categorise my next actions that way, instead of dividing each note into its own notebook respectively. I collect all next action items into the +Next Action notebook and tag accordingly. That way i get to keep my notebook count down.

Obviously there’s much more to dig into, but i’ll leave that for future posts. Let me know what you think!


Tech Tricks: Convert PDF’s into Kindle readable format

The Kindle is a pretty amazing device. I personally own the Kindle Paperwhite (2012 edition), and have never been happier. If you read, this is one of the best (if not the best) ebook reader out in the market right now.

One of the things i do on my Kindle is to read and digest personal documents. By personal documents i mean Word documents, PDF’s, HTML’s etc. (You can view the full list here). Amazon allows you to basically email these documents to a Kindle address, and magically it’ll appear on your device. To set this up, see here.

However you will realise that for PDF’s, the Kindle will display the document as-is – meaning the format will be retained. If the font size is small, you’ll have a hard time scrolling and reading the content. Here’s how it looks:


Looks awful, right?

Now here’s the neat trick:

When sending the document to your personal Kindle address, type the word “convert” in the subject line. Nothing else, just the word “convert”. What this does is that Amazon will convert whatever format the document is in, into a Kindle readable format. Here’s how it looks post conversion:


Pretty nifty, eh?

Comment below if you know of other neat tricks for the Kindle, or if you use it in some interesting ways. I’m always looking forward to learn more.


A look at my current setup (Mac)

Here’s a view of my dock, and below my current setup.


Communication: Adium (Google Talks) + Skype

Social Media: Tweetdeck

Browsing / Reading: Pocket & Chrome

Emailing: Sparrow (Gmail’s, both my personal inbox & the company’s)

Calender-ing (is this even a word?): BusyCal (which syncs with Google Calendars)


Evernote + Skitch

Alfred running in the background with Powerpack and workflows (This.)

Music & Podcasts: Spotify + iTunes

I’ll be digging into each app in more detail in future posts. Let me know if you’re particularly interested in some of the apps and methods i get around doing stuff.

Happy to hear from you too.

’til the next post, here’s a dancing Spiderman (with a bit of history) for you.




Hello World.

I feel as if this is an annual ritual, but here i am re-launching the blog again.

I promise this time it will be different. One of my new year resolutions is to start writing again, and to write consistently. Mostly because 2013 has been a fantastic year which led me to different places (both physical and metaphysical) by being in new countries, meeting new people and making new friends, learning tremendously and hopefully grown wiser.

I want to share these experiences and observations i had, and hopefully these will be helpful to you, dear reader, who’s currently reading this now. If you would, please leave comments, provide feedback, and i’ll love to have a conversation with you.

Also, this is mainly a space to store some of the recipes of my geekier pursuits, including, but not limited to, productivity hacks, app setups, workflows, and matters as such.

If you would indulge me, come stay awhile and listen.