How I manage my information diet in today’s information overloaded age

What you are getting into: 1342 words, 8mins read

For everyone living on the internet, we know how much information is out there. There’s always one new article to read, 5 interesting tweets, 10 inspirational videos, 20 juicy forum discussions, 30 new social media updates, and so on. Google any question and you’d get millions of results. It will only keep growing. New media outlets and platforms will be created. The constant variable is information.

If we are not careful and don’t learn how to manage inbound information, we will get overwhelmed. And I’m pretty sure at some point of time you got sick of the internet and told yourself ‘Fuck it, that’s all the internetz I’m gonna use for the day.’ only to find yourself scrolling through Facebook 30mins later. I know I do.

Occurrence of such ultimatums is increasing and I don’t like it. I’m always searching for better ways to improve my consumption flow. In this article, I share how I manage my consumption flow and habits, if you have any good tips, do tweet me at @musingsofzen!

Here’s what I’m gonna share.

  1. Why I read
  2. What, when, and format
  3. Percentages of what and when
  4. How I manage all the information

Why I read?

“To improve myself. Expand my knowledge. And to create.”

It’s simple. First, I want to improve myself. How do I do that? By expanding my knowledge. What’s the expected outcome of expanding my knowledge? To create something.

What, when, and formats of the things I read

#1: Books

First, I ask myself what are my immediate goals, then pair books with goals I’m working on for the month. For example, now I’m practicing Stoicism, I read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and write about it.

When: During my morning routine, commute (any type), idle waiting time, before bed.

Format: Only physical books. I’ve tried Kindle Paperwhite and blasted through 13 books for a whole full year, but I can only remember a few key concepts from 1 or 2 books. I realised that marking up, dog earring pages, and having a tangible book boosts my absorption rate.

#2: Articles

Second, I supplement it with articles. Mainly from Googling.

When: During solo meals, micro idle waiting time (not long enough to whip out a book), ‘you can try to google it’ moments — instant gratification on the topic that’s on my mind.

Format: On desktop and mobile. I use Instapaper to save articles for later. Now the number of unread articles in my Instapaper queue is 74 (DAMNIT there’s 74 articles waiting for me to read them).

#3: News

Third, news. Because we all need to keep up with current news else we are just people living inside our own dream world. News is a double edge sword though, most times it brings huge amount of negativity, but a small fraction makes you revive faith in humanity. Mostly I just scroll through subjects and limit myself to 5 new news article per day.

When: I catch up on news during my return commute. I try not to read any news in the morning since the nature of news is negative, which throws me into a negative spiral for the day. So no news before noon.

Format: Via websites. Mainly CNA and Google News.

#4: Social Media

Forth, social media. Social media is not everything. Yes most of the news circulate and spread like wildfire within social media, but always remember, social media is a platform. Like all platforms out there, it only represents a fraction of the whole picture, be it large or small. I use it to keep up with what my friends have been up to because apparently these days ‘meatspace’ time is getting lesser and lesser.. Also, I spend way too much time on social media than I am willing to admit.

When: Snippets of ‘free’ time when I should be using those free time to relax my mind and do nothing. Similar to news, only after noon.

Format: Apps, tons of them.

#5: Podcasts

Fifth, podcasts. They are audio recordings published by very smart people. It’s like blog posts, but in audio. The best part is that it’s all free.

Podcasts I'm listening to.

Podcasts I’m listening to.

When: On my return commute. Since the train I take is always packed and almost impossible to hold a book in hand, listening to podcasts and learning something new seems to work out for me.

Format: I user Overcast. The smart speed won me over — it has saved me over 32hrs.

#6: Youtube

Six, Youtube. Video is getting really huge this year, so did my consumption of video. Sometimes the best format to learn is through video, you can almost always find something you want to learn in Youtube. I am ashamed to say that I spend way too much time in Youtube (skiving) despite ranking it so far down the list.

When: Usually during weekends, when I just want to laze around and idle my life away. Other than that, most of the times I use it to learn something new, it could be a new concept, or something tangible that I can use instantly, like Google Analytics.

Format: I prefer the desktop version, solely because I can turn up the speed. I cannot stand watching tutorial videos at the normal speed. I also turn on subtitles.

#7: Pinterest

Seven, Pinterest. I’m a huge fan. It’s so visual, so appealing to my creative brain (which I’m working very hard to improve). When things get tough, I turn to Pinterest for inspiration. It can be from motivation to design, or even spiritual.

When: Moments in need of inspiration.

Format: Desktop and mobile.

#Bonus: Miscellaneous reads

Lastly, miscellaneous reads like forums, Reddit, Quora, or any other random things I find on the internet when I’m skiving.

Metrics

What I think how I spend my time.

What I think how I spend my time.

I track a lot of things in my life, but tracking my consumption is a code I’ve yet to crack. But because the consumption varies from week to week, and it’s seasonal, it may prove to be a daunting effort to track down to the minute.

In the ideal world I wish I would spend my consumption time as such:

Only in the ideal world..

Only in the ideal world..

How I manage all the information

I markup in physical books, write longhand to take notes or draw diagrams to help facilitate my thinking. I also buy premium notebooks for that. Writing on paper without any distractions is what desire. But there’s a big draw back.

I can’t easily retrieve my notes.

Sometimes a good thought can be buried if I have written it down months ago.

For this, and the most important piece of the puzzle, I use Evernote. I can clip articles straight into Evernote, save pictures, emails, documents, bills, and of course, texts. All these are organised into folders, most of them are tagged. For example, I have a notebook named ‘Travel’, I can tag each individual note like ‘travel gear’, ‘southeast asia’, ‘bookings’, etc. It’s also synced across desktop and my phone. Which I can download notebooks for offline access. It currently holds more than 5000 notes, which I have collected over many years. Then, the most important part, the search. What’s the use of saving it if I can’t find it? The search is amazing. It can search within documents (if you are a paying user), it has OCR (which can search within photos, useful for handwritten mind maps), and it highlights your search term when you are scrolling through the results.

Because almost everything important is saved in Evernote and searchable, it makes it a really important tool in my workflow in managing all the information I consume. I don’t have to go through many apps or folders just to dig find that small snippet of information. It’s like Google, but for personal use.


To close off, your consumption will greatly differ from mine, but taking time out to audit the sources, thinking about where you are spending your time on, what the information you consume serves, and how to manage all these information without wasting time searching for it is extremely important. Especially in today’s information age.

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