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.

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