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How I manage to read 50 articles a day productively

I’m quite proud of the amount of content I read each day. On average I go through anywhere from 50 to 75 articles on various topics gathered from a number of websites and feeds from around the Internet. With this many pieces to go through, I had to assemble a solution allowing me to:

  1. Identify articles I want to read
  2. Remind myself to read them when the opportunity arose
  3. Identify if the article is worth sharing with others
  4. Share those articles with the right locations in social media
To accomplish this I’ve settled on three main tools:
  1. Feedly Pro
  2. IFTTT
  3. Todoist
  4. Buffer
The steps I needed to configure in my tools to make the solution workable were:
  1. Configure feeds I want to review each day in Feedly (this only needs to be done once for each feed)
  2. Configure a recipe in IFTTT to create new tasks in Todoist whenever I mark an article as Saved for Later in Feedly Pro
  3. Add a Label to Todoist called “@Share”
Each day I then work the solution:
  1. I open Feedly Pro and review the headlines of the articles captured from the previous day.
  2. On each article of interest, I mark the article as “Saved for Later”
  3. Once I have finished reviewing all the titles I mark the feed as Done in Feedly Pro which clears the remaining articles and resets my counts to zero
  4. When I set an article to “Saved for Later”, IFTTT automatically creates a new task in Todoist under a project I have called “Articles to Read” with a due date of Tomorrow. This way I have a full day to review the articles before my karma starts to get penalized in Todoist (I’ll explain this later).
  5. As the day progresses and I have a few moments, I open Todoist and go to the “Articles to Read” project and click on the link to the article that IFTTT automatically attached to the task that was created when I saved the article.
  6. I read the article and decide if it’s worth sharing.
  7. If the article is worth sharing I update the Todoist task with the label @Share and postpone it’s due date until the next day
  8. If the article isn’t worth sharing I mark the task as complete and move on to the next one
By using this process I’m able to move through my articles quickly and efficiently from any device.
At other points during the day I want to share those articles worth sharing, so I open Todoist, and filter for the @Share label.  I use an extension for Chrome for sharing web posts to Buffer which has already been configured to post to my most common social media destinations. I click on the extension, add a description, and send it on it’s now scheduled way.

Now about that karma thing. Todoist gives you a point system based method of measuring how successful you are at getting your tasks done. One of the aspects of “karma” in Todoist is if you have tasks overdue for more than four days, you lose karma. I’ve found it to be an excellent incentive (it would appear I’m more personally competitive than I thought) to keep tasks moving and finished.

There is a significant power to defining automated solutions to match how you work and what you want to accomplish.  Time spent understanding your productivity requirements can make all the difference in the world and keep you on top of your game.

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Being productive wherever you are

One of the keys to productivity is taking advantage of the moments as they come available. To do this successfully you need to be prepared to react when those moments arise. Here are some tips for taking advantage of “idle moments”:

1. Clean up your task list
If you’re keeping an active task list regardless of it being digital or analog, idle time is a good time to go through and do a quick update. Capture new items on your mind, update completed tasks, and look over what is already there to see if anything needs to be revised.
2. Journal
Journaling is a powerful way to keep a grasp on what has been happening and what needs to happen in your personal and professional life.  One of the obstacles to journaling is the idea you need to craft these wonderful personal missives in your journal. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Taking a couple of minutes to jot down what is happening right at that moment is a great way to start building the running narrative of your life.
3. Keep a quick reading list
Idle time is an excellent opportunity to catch up on the light reading you’ve been putting off.  Apps such as Amazon Kindle and Pocket are great tools to have reading material on hand even when you may not have connection to the internet to be able to fill idle time with productive learning and information.
4. Be “mindful”
While this may be the current buzzword when it comes to many circles, being mindful of what and where you are can be a wonderful application of idle time.  Take a few moments and focus on the sights, the sounds, and the happenings around you. Don’t worry about adding things to your Snapchat story or your Instagram feed. Let Facebook wait for a while and take the idle time to capture the most important thing…a memory.
5. Brainstorm
Brainstorming is one of those things I find works best when you can disengage your mind from the tactical requirements of a problem and give your subconsious a chance to ponder and poke at the topic. Next time you have some idle time try this brainstorming exercise: pick a topic you know you need ideas around, say a project for example, and focus on it for a full minute.  Try your hardest to come up with new ideas.  Now after a minute let it go.  Don’t focus on something else, but rather just stop focusing on the topic.  After a few minutes of idle time you may find your mind making connections you didnt see when you were concentrating. Often creative ideas gain their greatest energy when given the chance to play on their own without our direction.
In today’s world, idle time is a blessing. It is a rare gift we need to appreciate and take greatest advantage of rather than waste as it slips by. Whether we want to accomplish things or revel in inactivity as a way to “sharpen the saw” we can use idle time to our advantage.  By having a plan as to how you can take advantage of idle time, you can lower your stress, increase your productivity, and feel better about both in the process.
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What to do when your paper journal disappears

There is a recognition in the analog journaling community that the physical nature of the journal can be a single point of failure when it comes to the information you keep. For some, the chances of losing their journal are slim, for others, much more likely. Personally I have found my challenge comes not only from not having a specific journal with me at a given time but also the frequency at which I prefer to change notebooks (yes, I am a stationery geek.)
Recently I asked the Bullet Journal for Professionals group on Facebook what people would do if they no longer had their analog journal through either loss, destruction or theft. There were a range of responses demonstrating the critical nature of these journals for daily productivity:

“1. cry
2. cry some more
3. sit down with a piece of paper and write down every to do that i can think of that wasn’t completed”

“Curl up into a ball in the corner and sob uncontrollably.”

“Go to the pub!”

What is most interesting is even with these responses of distress, almost everyone had a plan for backing up their journals digitally, by either re-entering information into digital systems or, the most popular way, through digital images of the pages for storage and retrieval.

If you decide you are going to live the analog life when it comes to journaling, I highly recommend you find a method of archiving and backing up your paper that works for you.  Whether it’s digital images, scanning, or just copying things down somewhere else, having a Plan B for your information is the only way you can truly have confidence in your system.

When it comes to a technical method of backing things up I use two different tools: my phone and my printer. I can never be sure when I will have time to capture the contents of a notebook so by using my phone to capture scans to Google Drive (my storage system of choice) I can feel more confident things are there should the worst case happen.  My printer comes into play because when I purchased my printer I specifically bought one that allows scanning directly to Google Drive (see the plan coming together?) With the printer on hand, I can scan page after page of journal and other documents to my library with no risk coming from the loss of the physical materials.

There are many different ways to back up your analog journal.  It isn’t nearly as important how you do it as it is that you do it at all.  Don’t be the person crying in corner of the pub because the dog ate your journal. Be prepared.

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Preparing for a lost or stolen wallet

We are constantly reminded how vulnerable our personal information is everyday by the media. With our focus on protecting our digital information we sometimes forget how important it is to protect our physical information. Being productive isn’t just about handling daily tasks, it’s about being able to handle the unexpected in a way that is efficient and effective.

We carry a great deal of personal information in our wallets, from financial to medical to identity. How do we keep track of that information and manage should our wallets be lost or stolen? My recommendation is to leverage a tested technology being used online for our offline information.

Lastpass is an excellent online tool for managing user accounts but it can also be used to securely encrypt personal information for access from the cloud. By installing the app you can create secure notes in the Lastpass system, capturing things such as credit cards, ID cards, and other vital stats.  The best aspect of this is the ability to attach images to the records for reference.

In my own case I have a folder in Lastpass called Wallet in which I have secured notes containing all the different vital items I keep in my wallet. In the circumstance where my wallet may be lost or stolen, I have a record of each item as well as a photo of both sides of the cards so I can quickly have cards and accounts cancelled and replaced.

It took about ten minutes to capture the contents of my wallet into Lastpass, and the peace of mind coupled with a productive plan of action should the situation arise. Planning ahead can make all the difference in your productivity when things are disrupted by forces outside your control.

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Pick a tool and stick with it

One of the most common productivity challenges is finding a tool to keep track of all the miscellaneous documents and information you gather on a daily basis. There are solutions such as OneNote, Google Drive, Evernote, and many others but nothing that is the end-all, be-all.

Here’s my recommendation. Whatever your choice, and this choice comes from looking carefully at the tools and how they work for you (not the other way around), pick one and stick to it. There is nothing that will derail your personal productivity than having to track down that document or electronic receipt you need right now and not remembering what tool you put it in. I experienced that very problem recently looking for an eyeglass prescription and for the life of me wasted almost 15 minutes trying to figure out what system I loaded it into a year ago.

If you’re going to switch between tools, make sure you either move everything or put references in your new tool as to what you left behind. What ultimately saved me was the search functionality in Google Drive (text search of an image no less). Could this be done in other tools? Absolutely. I go back to the core of this post…it’s less a matter of choosing the right tool and more a matter of choosing a tool you can trust.

Tags, filters, categorization, notebooks, searching…they all are factors in being able to find what you stored. Think about how you use the information and how you will go looking for it months from now when you need it immediately. Efficiency is all about having what you need, when you need it, to do what is necessary.