Effective use of time: Reading list triage

As I sit here choosing whether to dive into the half foot high pile of “things I really want to read” or to find time to blog (after a hectic week in which I had time to do neither), I have to admit I’m stretched too thin. So what to do?

Kathy Sierra offers some great advice for cutting down on the backlog of reading. While she has written primarily for a tech audience, these ideas can be put into action by anyone who needs to cope with exploding information flows – and that’s all of us. The picture accompanying Kathy’s post sums up the problem:

Keeping Up

She offers practical advice for what I call “reading list triage.” Some of the best tips:

  • “Find the best aggregators.” There are websites and services that filter content and feature the best (That’s one of the ways I use blogs.)
  • “Cut the redundancy!” (Is the news really different in three daily papers?)
  • “Unsubscribe to as many things as possible.” In my experience this is particularly useful. I periodically unsubscribe from blogs and let magazine subscriptions lapse. It’s surprising how many I can live without. And I can always resubscribe to the ones I really value.
  • “Recognize that gossip and celebrity entertainment are black holes.” Oh yeah. Playing solitaire on your PC is as good a use of time.
  • “Be a LOT more realistic about what you’re likely to get to, and throw the rest out.” The ultimate solution. Don’t be afraid of this step. Before I leave the office every Friday, my last act is to clear my desk. And that doesn’t mean filing things. That means discarding the things I just don’t have the time to read. And it’s amazing how rarely I have to ask for a copy of one of the things I’ve dispensed with.
  • Kathy offers additional tips in her post. I think you’ll agree that reading it is time well spent!

    • New Media and technology changes…coming at us at warp speed and I try to cover it at MotherPie. No wonder the little moleskin books are becoming such big best sellers. Old fashioned ways to help us think with output rather than be slammed with so much input to organize, and categorize.

      I, too, liked the original post but you have simplified it here.


    • Joseph, for me those two pictures say it all. As a grad student, I’m often planning to read a huge pile of books and then only actually skimming through them and reading the equivalent of a pamphlet’s worth. It boils down to the fact that we all get only 24 hours each day, so we need to try to make the best – most distilled – use of our time. So this triage idea is great.

    • Sean Reid

      This piece was very helpful. I have a pile of unread magazines on my cabinet at work that is literally 3 feet high. My usual practice is to do most of my magazine reading on the plane. But that only works when you travel a lot. I have been travelling less lately and as a result, I have a fire hazzard developing in my offce!

      I will take the advice re ditching the stuff I am just not ever going to get to and unsubscribing to the stuff that is only somewhat interesting/useful to me. Hopefully that will help stem my “periodical pile-up”.



    • Sean, When I saw Kathy’s original post, I just knew that this was something we all should do, but probably don’t. Like you, I take a pile of reading material on my trips. When I returned from my most recent trip last night, instead of putting the material I had not read on the trip back in my “to read” pile, I took a quick look at what I hadn’t gotten to and discarded all but one piece of it. Now I can get on to the stuff that arrived while I was away!

    • Sean Reid

      That sounds like a good approach Joe.

      I am travelling this week and will see how it goes.