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

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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.

        More by this author

        Leo Babauta

        Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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        Last Updated on July 20, 2021

        How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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        How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

        You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

        Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

        Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

        Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

        1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

        According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

        “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

        Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

        Warming up

        If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

        If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

        Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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        1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
        2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
        3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

        Stay hydrated

        Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

        To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

        Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

        Meditate

        Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

        Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

        Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

        Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

        2. Focus on your goal

        One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

        Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

        Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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        Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

        If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

        3. Convert negativity to positivity

        There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

        ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

        It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

        Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

        Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

        Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

        4. Understand your content

        Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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        However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

        “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

        Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

        Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

        One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

        5. Practice makes perfect

        Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

        In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

        Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

        6. Be authentic

        There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

        Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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        Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

        To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

        With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

        Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

        7. Post speech evaluation

        Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

        Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

        We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

        You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

        Improve your next speech

        As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

        Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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        • How did I do?
        • Are there any areas for improvement?
        • Did I sound or look stressed?
        • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
        • Was I saying “um” too often?
        • How was the flow of the speech?

        Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

        If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

        Reference

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