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In the Know: Stay on Top of Your Field with Feeds

In the Know: Stay on Top of Your Field with Feeds
Google Reader

    Need to stay on top of the breaking news or hottest trends in your line of work? Or are you a blogger who wants to keep up with your niche without a ton of surfing? If you’re like me, you like to get the most bang for your precious time — and you don’t want to waste it spending hours searching for the best and hottest stuff in your field.

    The solution: Get all the top news in your field in one feed reader.

    With the right setup, you can monitor the top sites without a lot of browsing and without having to check the sites throughout the day to see what’s hot. You can do it in 10-15 minutes a day, especially if you batch-process your feeds by only checking once (or twice at the most) at a certain set time each day. Minimal time, maximum knowledge.

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    Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to do that. In this example, we’ll assume that you’re a blogger who needs to keep up with the latest GTD news — but you can use any topic that interests you.

    1. Google Reader. You can use any feed reader, really. Bloglines, Netvibes, Thunderbird, anything. But I recommend Google Reader, only because the interface is easy to use and it’s so easy to crank through your posts using the “j” and “k” shortcut keys. In this example, I’ll be using Google Reader, but you can substitute any feed reader of your choice.

    Technorati

      2. Technorati. Go to technorati.com, and in the search field at the top, search for “gtd” and select “in blog posts”. A search results page with GTD posts will come up. If you’re only interested in the posts from the blogs with the highest “authority” (most links to their blog), do a second search, selecting “a lot of authority” from the drop down filter menu, and searching again. On this new search, find the little orange RSS logo with the word “Subscribe”. Click on that, and subscribe to this search in Reader. Add the feed to a new folder — in this case, we’ll call it “GTD”.

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      3. Digg. Go to digg.com, and in the top right corner, enter “gtd” in the search box. If you want to further filter the results, you can do a second search and select the drop down filter that says “Front page stories”. I don’t recommend this for most topics (including GTD), as many of the best posts don’t make it to the front page. For technology topics, you can select this option. At any rate, there’s a little orange RSS logo on the right side of the search page. Click on that and subscribe, putting the new Digg gtd feed in your GTD folder.

      4. Del.icio.us. Same thing as the above two steps, but in this case I recommend going to the del.icio.us popular page for GTD (or whatever tag you like), and click on the “RSS feed for this page” link at the bottom. Again, add to the GTD folder in Reader.

      5. Flickr. This isn’t necessary, but for a topic like GTD, it’s always cool to see pics of people’s Moleskines and other cool tools. If you want this option, go to flickr.com’s gtd tag page (or whatever tag interests you), and subscribe (at the bottom).

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      6. Other services. If there are other similar social services you like, just do the same thing — search for “gtd” or go to the GTD tag page and subscribe, putting the feed in your GTD folder in Reader.

      7. Top blogs. If that’s not enough for you, you can find the top blogs in your field, and subscribe. Lifehack.org, of course, should be one of them. Add these feeds to the same folder.

      Feeds

        8. All the news that’s fit to feed. OK, you should now have a nice list of feeds in one folder, with all the hot news and posts in them. You will, of course, find some duplicates, but it’s better to see a story twice (and then you’ll know it’s really hot) than to miss it, if you really want to stay on top of things. Over time, you’ll get a feel for which of the feeds are giving you the most value, and unsubscribe to the rest.

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        9. Set a time. Only read your feeds at one certain time of the day. Let’s say 10 a.m. — never check them first thing in the morning or you’ll get stuck reading them for hours and never get anything done. When 10 a.m. rolls around (you already did your Most Important Task by then), set a timer for 10 (or 15) minutes. Open Reader, go to the folder, and get through as much as possible in that time. With practice, you can get through all of them quickly.

        10. Crank through them. When you open your Google Reader, go to your special folder, and crank through it. Use the “j” key to move quickly from one post to the next (use the “k” key to go back to the previous item), and quickly browse through the new posts. If you see one of interest, middle-click on it to open it in a new tab, and keep reading through the rest of the posts in your folder. When you get through them all, you can now go to the tabs you opened, with the best of the posts from the folder, and peruse them at leisure. Or bookmark them for later.

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        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        No!

        It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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        But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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        What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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        But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

        1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
        2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
        3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
        4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
        5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
        6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
        7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
        8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
        9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
        10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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