Build your weekly reading stack and frame it

For those of you who know me, I can spend about 15-20 hours a week reading blogs\articles about various of topics (which means 1-2 days of work a week!). Sometimes, I prefer sinking into a set of articles instead of doing my chores. Though “free” reading is very important and educational, some tasks must get done. I tend to forget it and then feel uncomfortable about it. I feel like I have an elegant excuse to avoid critical tasks. “Hey”, I say to myself, “It’s important to read about managing my time better or the new features in .Net 3.0, so I’ll read a few more articles and then I’ll complete my Math homework”. The reality is that I finish my Math homework the night before class which is bad for several of reasons: (1) I don’t sleep well the night before, (2) I feel uneasy – “maybe I should have invest more time in it” and (3) It’s “life smell” (the older brother of “code smell”) meaning I know it’s wrong and yet I carry on with this paradigm.

Reading blog posts or articles in “free style” may cause a huge wast of time. It happens to me all the time. I jump from post to post, from article to article and start reading until I’m tired.  About 30% of the information I read I don’t remember an hour later as it wasn’t all that interesting to begin with (but hey, “I can’t stop in the middle right?” says the stupid voice in my head). I enjoy reading technical stuff, but I also learned to appreciate my time. It was time to come up with a system to control my reading and make the most out of my time.

Stack your reading on weekly basics

I managed to lower my wander around posts and articles. For big posts\articles, I read 1-2 paragraphs at the beginning and the last one and decide if it’s important enough to get inside my weekly reading stack. If it’s a small interesting post, I read it all the way (avoiding reading the first & last paragraph again later from my stack) and throw it away(of my mind). How can you save your post\article into your stack? My system is very easy. I’ve created a directory named “Reading Stack” on my desktop, there I use the browser’s “Save As…” menu item in order to save an offline copy of the post\article.

This directory must fill just enough data to read for one week. No more and no less. I don’t want to carry my reading material from one week to the next one as it will decrease my motivation in time (“damn, I can’t seem to overcome the amount of data I want to read” syndrom). I read about 7 big(~3000-5000 words) articles a week and about 50-80 small ones(from my SharpReader). I pick my articles very carefully and thus using my time wisely as opposed to before where I’ve read a lot of useless data and wandering around blogs.

Frame it (with time)

As I’ve mention, packing the data is hard but not as hard as finding the time reading it. You must find some time in your schedule to invest for reading (it takes about 5 years of 1 hour reading a day to become an expert in a given field). Try to find some “delta” time that you’re currently not using. For me, it was the time before my university classes and during some of the breaks. I usually arrive to my class(with my laptop) about 20 minutes before the lesson starts. This is ideal for reading almost 1 big post\article. I sometimes read during the lesson itself (watch out for this one, I won’t recommend it for anyone, but it works for me) and read a few paragraphs during the breaks(while talking to folks at my class). I usually manage to finish about 2 big posts\articles during one class. Luckily I have 2 of them during my week so that 4 big posts\articles. The remaining reading I do in the weekend, but I have only 3 left so it would be much easier to finish (Weeoow! one more tasks is done!). Try to figure out your “dead” time (waiting for a doctor, watching a game(read along if it’s not that important game), if you use the train – it’s a perfect dead time) and add to it the amount of time you need in order to be happy with your weekly reading.

That’s it. I’m now reading about 25-30 big articles a month which means around 200-250 articles a year! This is a number I can easily live with while still have time for my chores. I feel easy to start reading something and then save it to my articles stack. I _know_ I’ll read it later this week so I’m not afraid of losing this information. I’m still investing a large amount of hours (~10-15) for my weekly reading, but most of these hours are taken from “dead” time I’ve got anyway.



3 thoughts on “Build your weekly reading stack and frame it

  1. I like "life smell". Can there be "life refactoring" method/book/tools? Worth a thought.

  2. I actually feel much the same as you described,
    my solution:
    I created an Excel file divided to subjects that I want to learn and links to the web site.

    but i still have a bug in my\yours idea:
    short articles probably will be read on the fly
    ==> so won’t count in the number of short articles
    ==> can’t sum it up to test my productivity this week

    do you save the short articles to this directory too?
    How do you know how many articles do you read last week?

  3. @Shani – well, it’s not that important for _me_ to track my small articles productivity. You can always count the numbers of articles you read and add 1 to your excel for each small article. If I see that I’m reading 50 small articles a week or 80 a week it does not matter that much(again, for me). It means that I had less free time to invent in this particular week. I do want to keep track on my big articles and let me explain why. reading 10 big articles a week against 6 triggers an alarm for me. These 10 articles really teach me something I should not easily forget. They were well chosen during the last week so they are very important.
    I test my productivity in two aspects:
    1. How many big(well chosen) articles I’ve managed to read this week.
    2. Am I happy with the amount of data I’ve learned this week (rate it from 1(not happy) to 10(happy camper)).

    Again, there might be a small article you read that really taught you a few things, so my system is not bulletproof but this is my system. I feel comfortable with it. The most important thing to do is to build a system that you’re _comfortable_ with and can rely upon.

    @Pavel – Noble thought ;-)

Comments are closed.