Taming email communications – part 2

slack-200x200In my last post I described the three challenges that email presents in today’s modern life. Now, I want to tell you about what is driving the desire to “kill email” and what some companies are doing about it.

The desire to “kill email”

More and more we hear of people declaring “email bankruptcy” by marking them all as read, and starting from scratch. Clearly there is a growing frustration with email. Recently, I’ve noticed the chorus of articles like this one from Fortune Magazine asking “Why can’t we kill email?” or this one from the Verge claiming “Slack is killing email.” Slack is the current darling and articles like this from the New York Times: “Slack the office messaging app that may finally sink email” are driving the “kill email” sentiment.

All this hype is generally way overblown. They claim that many new startup companies like Slack, Convo, HipChat have sprung up in recent years to openly wage war on email. With interfaces inspired by today’s social networks, their software aims to replace email, which was designed to be asynchronous, with persistent chat and real-time communication tools that can be as broad or focused as needed.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think Slack is a fantastic tool and it does reduce email in many situations. I use Slack and it has replaced email in certain scenarios but when I see headlines like this on Business Insider, “Amazing messaging tool Slack can kill 80 to 100% of work emails” I just shake my head wondering if the authors actually believe what they write. I think they are actually doing Slack a disservice by over promising in a way that the startup can only under deliver on those expectations in the real world. Sure, a 20-person greenfield startup with no legacy can probably live without substantial email but that is just not the real world.

Silicon Valley is in love with Slack

In order to try to monetize the growing dislike of email, Silicon Valley is funding companies who are all trying to “kill email” as this article in CiteWorld “Why Silicon Valley is suddenly in love with Slack” documents. CNBC claims Slack wins the “Race to $2 billion: The fastest-growing start-up” and the Verge says, “Slack is now the fastest-growing workplace software ever.”

No wonder Silicon Valley is in love with Slack!

What makes Slack different?

Slack is really a chat room for offices that allows coworkers to communicate by sending individual and group messages. The rooms are persistent so the content is always available for all to see and not locked in individuals email inboxes. This allows people to consume the content on their timeframe – not when the sender clicks send like in email. This is a huge difference!

There is an additional advantage that new colleagues can see all of the historical content that has been posted over time. This is a huge advantage over email where all that information and collaboration is locked inside people’s inboxes. So, while companies like Slack can reduce email in todays workplace they are not the total solution to people’s frustrations with email.

Why nothing will completely replace email

Reading about all these companies promising to “kill email” I just shake my head in disbelief because let’s be honest — email will never die. There are several reasons for this. Some are outlined in this article “How to kill email: Why startups will fail to displace email” but I think the biggest reason is because email is an open standard.

Email is an open standard that works on every device and is universally accessible to anyone in the world. It’s the only system in the world where a user can send a message regardless of infrastructure. Additionally, the web is addicted to email as a unique identifier for usernames. Every service on the web has some dependency on email whether it involves an account sign-up form, customer service, or some form of customer engagement.

These new tools are definitely part of the overall solution to reduce the amount of email we receive but they will never eliminate email entirely. The whole notion is just silly. The reality is that the collaboration tools of the future will need to seamlessly integrate IM, workflow, discussion, collaboration, content, phone, video, presence awareness and email too.

So, if email isn’t going away how do we tame the email beast? In my next post I’ll tell you exactly how to do it.

Taming email communications – part 1

For years, email has been scourge of business communications and many of us blame email for our woes. We love blaming “technology” because but it’s harder for us to look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves. If we do, then we’ll realize that the problem isn’t email; it’s how we use it.

The days of blaming email are over. To say that you are buried in email is really saying that you are unorganized. To tell someone that you “missed it” or “didn’t get your email” is to say you were not paying attention. Spam folders and lost attachments are the receivers’ responsibility to manage and maintain – not a viable excuse.

Email is such a huge part of communication; it is time to pay attention to it, to study up on it and to actually get trained on best practices.

Left unmanaged, email presents three main problems:

  1. The time we spend doing email
  2. The negative productivity cost of continuously checking email
  3. Email lets other people prioritize your day for you

The time we spend doing email

If you feel like you’re playing whack-a-mole with your inbox, you’re not alone. The Radicati Group estimates that the average knowledge worker receives around 100 emails every day, a number that is rising at around 15% per year.

In July 2012, the McKinsey Global Institute released a report titled “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies,” which found that typical employees now spend fully 28% of their work time managing email. And it is only getting worse! Think about it. If you work 50 hours per week, then 14 of them are spent reading and writing emails.

The negative productivity cost of continuously checking email

What is less obvious to us, however, is the cognitive price we pay each time we drop everything and check our email. Shifting our attention from one task to another, as we do when we’re monitoring email while trying to read a report or craft a presentation, disrupts our concentration and saps our focus. Each time we return to our initial task, we use up valuable cognitive resources reorienting ourselves. And all those transitional costs add up.

Research shows that when we are deeply engrossed in an activity, even minor distractions can have a profound effect. According to a University of California-Irvine study, regaining our initial momentum following an interruption can take, on average, upwards of 20 minutes.

Studies show that being cut off from email significantly reduces stress and allows employees to focus far better, according to the study by UC Irvine and U.S. Army researchers. Heart rate monitors were attached to computer users in a suburban office setting, while software sensors detected how often they switched windows. People who read email changed screens twice as often and were in a steady “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates. Those removed from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates.

“We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress,” said UCI informatics professor Gloria Mark.

Multitasking, as many studies have shown, is a myth. A more accurate account of what happens when we tell ourselves we’re multitasking is that we’re rapidly switching between activities, degrading our clarity and depleting our mental energy. And the consequences can be surprisingly serious.

An experiment shows that email makes you dumber than pot was conducted at the University of London found that we lose as many as 10 IQ points when we allow our work to be interrupted by seemingly benign distractions like emails and text messages.

Remember: it’s up to you to protect your cognitive resources. The more you do to minimize task-switching over the course of the day, the more mental bandwidth you’ll have for activities that actually matter.

Email lets other people prioritize your day for you

Speaking of activities that actually matter, email is the ultimate tool for letting other people prioritize your day for you. Reacting to emails as they come in effectively surrenders your ability to focus on your priorities. Instead, you spend your time dealing with all the incoming “stuff.” David Allen calls this “reacting to the latest and loudest” and it is a surefire way to let other people set your priorities.

The net effect of this is you feel like you’re getting a lot of work done but the problem is that you are not getting the important stuff done. Cumulatively, this saps away your ability to complete the things that really make a difference to your boss and your company.

Finally, we all feel constantly busy in our work lives today. Email is a huge part of this. The speed of business is certainly increasing and technologies like email are certainly part of this. Competition is moving faster and therefore, there is increasing pressure to do more in less time. With all this pressure to do more in less time, it is even more critical that you do the important stuff first and not allow other people to prioritize your activities for you.

So, those are the three main problems with modern email. In my next post I’ll tell you why everyone wants to kill email and what to do about it.

Why GTD is so important to successful Work-Life integration

134086167In today’s world “Work-Life Balance” is an impossible fairy tale. If we are honest with ourselves, all we can strive for is successful “Work-Life Integration.” I say this because work-life balance implies that what you do professionally and what you do personally are somehow at odds – a zero-sum game that requires us to strike a 50-50 balance.

Work-life integration, by contrast, suggests that at the very best, what you do at work and what you do outside of it with family, friends, and community are driven by the same fundamental values and priorities. Ideally, you can bring your talents, strengths and personality to both arenas, making one’s work life and home life parts of a seamless whole. Then you find ways to fulfill and enjoy both your work and life demands at the same time.

The Harvard Business Review has a great article on the subject called “Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life” that states, “Work/life balance is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth, today’s senior executives will tell you. But by making deliberate choices about which opportunities they’ll pursue and which they’ll decline, rather than simply reacting to emergencies, leaders can and do engage meaningfully with work, family, and community.” 

Forbes Insights has a detailed research called “The @Work State of Mind Project” where they state “The barriers between personal and work time have crumbled. Executives have to be prepared to make decisions anywhere and at any time. Just 3% of the survey respondents said that they didn’t send or receive emails while on vacation. Only 2% said that they never worked weekends or nights. More than half the respondents (52%) said they receive information related to business decisions round-the-clock, including weekends.”

Work-life integration isn’t just about finding time at home to do work tasks and handling home tasks at work, even though that’s a popular perception. Instead of thinking “what work can I easily integrate into my home life”, focus on how you can integrate all areas of your life the best way you can. The ultimate goal is to optimize how you use your time so you can fulfill all of your daily needs, both in your work and in your personal life.

This is where GTD is so critical and I see many people make the mistake of setting up separate systems. Don’t attempt to separate your trusted systems into work and personal systems. You just have your life and all the associated commitments and stuff in your life, so you need a single trusted system. However, you should separate your contexts – what you can only do at the office and what you can only do at home when defining your next actions. That way, you only scan your next actions that are appropriate to the context of where you physical are at any given time.

If your trusted system up to date it is easy to leave work every day and feel like you accomplished exactly what you needed to do for that day. This allows you to drive home and decompress by tuning out and watching TV, reading a book, or whatever activity you like to do to relax and refresh. The ability to forget all the things you didn’t do that are still on your plate is essential to relieving stress and feeling like you are doing the appropriate things given your available time and context.

I recommend you do a “Daily Review” at the beginning of each day at the office. First, look at your calendar to see what hard commitments you have and how much discretionary time you have. Then, look at your Office Next Action list and decide what you realistically want to accomplish before you go home.

I stress the realistic part of this. Assign a “Today” tag to the next actions you want to accomplish today. Then filter your next actions on TODAY so you only see those items you decided you want to accomplish today. Once you can check off or delete all those things that you set out to accomplish in the morning at the office, go home. That way, you can feel good about accomplishing what you set out to accomplish at work and go home to be with your loved ones and focus on the priorities in your non-work life.

 

Why I use Evernote for my Trusted System

Evernote LogoMany people (either consciously or unconsciously) try to keep track of everything they need to do in their mind, which is a big mistake. Our brains are optimized for fast decision-making, not storage.  Trying to juggle too many things in your head at the same time is a major reason we get stressed out when there’s a lot of stuff going on.

The best way to stop mentally stressing and start being productive is to get all your “stuff” into your trusted system. David Allan defines “stuff” as: “anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven’t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step.” (page 17 of Getting Things Done) So, when we have stuff in our heads, it causes untold stress and anxiety. Once the information is out of your head, it’s far easier to figure out what to do with it.

I recently ran across an old friend who uses OmniFocus as the basis of his trusted system and he wanted to know why I used Evernote instead of OmniFocus. Choosing a tool for your trusted system is a personal decision and analog, digital and hybrid systems can work. Many people who are Mac-centric use OmniFocus and are extremely pleased with how it works for them and since it is designed with GTD in mind it makes it easy to follow GTD methodology.

So, what exactly is a trusted system?

We all use trusted systems today and probably don’t know it. Your calendar is a trusted system. Once you put a meeting or appointment into your calendar your brain “lets go of it” and no longer keeps it in your subconscious. Why does your brain “forget” that meeting or birthday?  The reason is your brain “trusts” your “system” (calendar) to remember it for you. Same thing goes for todays Contacts Apps for your names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.

Calendar and Contact apps are specialized trusted systems for specific uses. In GTD you also need a general-purpose trusted system for all the other “stuff” in your life. My trusted system must be 1) easy to use 2) with me at all times 3) on all my devices. It must be able to provide friction-free capture of the incoming stuff that comes to me. It must be able to retrieve the relevant information I need at a moments notice. It must be able to handle digital and analog inputs depending on contexts. And most important, when building a trusted system, simplicity is the key – less is more – and that is why I use Evernote.

Evernote serves as the foundation for my trusted system because of its friction-free input and output of data. It is always available and I can easily access it from whatever device I am using. It syncs across all my devices so it doesn’t matter if I am on my laptop, my home computer, my smartphone or my tablet because I can easily get information in and out of Evernote.

Evernote’s ecosystem of applications allows me to fine-tune how I use it for capture. I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner to scan all physical paper directly into Evernote. I use Fast Ever to capture text-based stuff in a friction-free manner. I also use the Evernote Web Clipper to clip web pages into Evernote with one-click ease.

This is how my trusted system is set up.

Notebooks

I have 16 “Notebooks” which are the collections of individual notes. I also have two “Stacks” (Next Actions and Reference) that are collections of Notebooks.

  1. Agendas
  2. Areas of Focus
  3. Assistant
  4. Next Actions:  Anywhere, Errands, Home, Office
  5. Projects
  6. Reference: Education, GTD, Information Technology, Receipts, Reference
  7. Waiting For
  8. Someday/Maybe
  9. Stop Doing
  10. Unprocessed
Tags

Some GTD Evernote practitioners use tags extensively to organize their system. I only use tags sparingly and really only use two tags – “Today” for the next actions I am planning on doing today and “Weekend” for next actions I plan on accomplishing over the weekend. Tags are attributes that you can apply to any individual note. You can then view all notes with a specific tag, regardless of which notebook it resides in. This provides for the ultimate in filing flexibility and many people prefer to use tags as the basis for their system instead of notebooks. I do not use tags because of the extra steps (clicks or touches) it takes to tag the item introduces friction into the capture and processing processes.

Do not distinguish between work and personal

I don’t distinguish between work stuff and personal stuff for the same reason I do not use tags – I do not want additional clicks or touches when capturing or processing my stuff. Don’t confuse a context like @home where the next physical action can only be done at home with “personal” as in separating work stuff with personal stuff. In GTD, there is no distinction between business and personal – it is all “stuff” you need to do and it needs to get into your trusted system.

Use Evernote’s email address to easily get email stuff into your trusted system

In today’s world a significant amount tasks, action items, projects and other stuff are going to come to you via email. Fortunately, Evernote has a friction-free way to handle this. Each Evernote account is assigned a unique email address. You can find this in the desktop version of Evernote under Evernote – Account Info. Your email address will look something like this “username.c12345@m.evernote.com” and you should add this address to your contacts. I created a new contact called, “Inbox” and assigned this email address to it. Now when I want to send a message to Evernote, I simply forward it to my Inbox contact.

Set your default Notebook

Set your default notebook in Evernote so when you email something to Evernote, it is automatically filed in your default notebook. Mine goes to a notebook named “Unprocessed.”

Capturing all your stuff

The beauty of Evernote is it’s friction-free ability to get “stuff” into Evernote so you can process it later and ensure you never forget anything that is actionable.  This is critical to having a Trusted System and the stress-free productivity that goes with it.

Capturing email

When I am processing email and I come across an action that is more than two minutes, I forward it to Evernote and drag the email to my Archived folder in case I ever need to original email.

Capturing web sites

If I am on the web or I click thru to a web site and see something actionable or a reference item I want to save for future use, I use the Evernote Web Clipper to clip the article to Evernote.

Capturing RSS Feeds

If I see an actionable item when reading RSS feeds in Feedly, I just click on the send to Evernote icon.

Capturing physical paper

If I have a physical piece of paper that needs to get into my trusted system I use my ScanSnap to scan it to Evernote. One button is all it takes!

Capturing ideas or actionable items on the go

If I come up with an idea or someone tells me something actionable, I use Fast Ever to input it via text.

All of these way to capture stuff end up with new actionable items waiting for me in my Unprocessed folder ready to process into the appropriate action and context for that item.  I can’t think of a better way to have a friction-free way to getting stuff into my trusted system than using Evernote.  And for this reason, Evernote has become the most important application I have on all my devices.

That’s it. My Trusted System that runs my entire life is in this simple yet powerful tool called Evernote.

Start 2015 off with a Yearly Review

2015This is the time of year we all do self-reflection and resolve to improve ourselves in the new year.  As most everyone knows making resolutions like “I’m going to lose weight” rarely are successful.  The main reason for this is these goals are not put in a context that will allow for long-term success.  Once the initial “eat better and get to the gym” wears off and we are stuck in the daily grind of our lives we revert to our old habits.

If you really want to resolve to accomplish something and truly make a commitment with yourself, then you need to create an environment for long-term success.  This means adopting GTD and incorporating your desired outcomes into your trusted system.

I recommend you do a “Yearly Review” to reflect on last year and project into next year.  Then if something comes out of that self-reflection that you really are willing to commit to, you need to incorporate it into your system and work your system every week via the Weekly Review.  By using this approach (as opposed to a new year’s resolution) you will have a much better chance of long-term success.

The year-end review is similar to a weekly review but at a much higher level.  Here are the questions I ask myself:

Looking back on 2014:

  • What were your wins for the year?
  • What were the risks you took?
  • What is your unfinished business from this year that will carry forward to 2014?
  • What are you most happy about completing?
  • Who were the people who had the greatest impact on your life this year?
  • What was your biggest surprise?
  • What did you give back to your community?

Looking forward to 2015:

  • What would you like to be your biggest win to be this year?
  • What are you planning to do to improve yourself?
  • What would you be most happy about completing in the coming year?
  • What would you most like to change about yourself?
  • What are you looking forward to learning?
  • What do you think your biggest risk will be?
  • What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving?

Then, I do a thorough review of my Someday/Maybes to see if there is anything on there that I want to commit to accomplishing in the new year. Perform a review of your higher-level horizons like your Areas of Focus to see if they still reflect your commitments and responsibilities accurately.

Next, it is critical to assess how you have allocated your time over the course of the last year. This is critical because time is your most valuable asset. There are only 24 hours in a day and therefore you need to make the most of each one of those hours.  To complete my Year-End Review I schedule my calendar for the new year. I schedule all of my recurring meetings to stop recurring at the end of the year so I will have a blank calendar in the new year. This way I get to reassess the value of those meetings.

Open your calendar and look back at your recurring meetings. Were they worth the time you invested in them? I’ll bet they started out with the best of intentions and actually provided value but over time, they decayed into less value. Take a critical look at your recurring meetings and ask yourself if they continue to be worth the time investment.  Ideally, you will delete these from your calendar. If you’re not comfortable with removing them, then maybe you can reduce their recurrence from daily to weekly or weekly to every other week or monthly.

The next thing you need to do is to schedule your priorities. This is absolutely critical! If you don’t schedule your priorities, your calendar will get filled up with other stuff and you wont be spending your time on the highest value items. Schedule the things that really matter first. For me, this is my family time, my weekly review, priority projects, 1:1s with my direct reports and any major commitments I may have.

Schedule these items in the morning and don’t make them more than 90 minutes. Why? Because if you schedule them in the morning and you get “overtaken by events” and have to do something else you can bump a lower priority item off later in the day. Also, there is ample evidence showing that people’s energy, concentration and effectiveness is greater in the morning than the afternoon. There is also lots of evidence that after an hour and a half people’s effectiveness drops off significantly so if you have a large project you are much better scheduling multiple 90 appointments than to try to slog thru a multiple hour task.

Schedule multiple 30 minute appointments to process you “inboxes.” For most people this is email but if your honest with yourself you have multiple incoming queues of stuff. If you follow GTD then you have your “unprocessed” queue of stuff. You may have an “inbox” on your desk, you may have incoming calls, you may have RSS feeds, you may have the incoming stream of social media or other incoming queues of “stuff” that needs to be processed. Schedule time to process your stuff to zero.

Once you have added these items to your calendar, then whatever free blocks of time are left can be filled with meetings and other lower priority items.

Do a Year-end Review and I guarantee you will feel better and start 2015 off on the track to success!

Additional tools to keep up with information overload

In my last post, I discussed that as a CIO in today’s fast-paced world it has become increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the relevant news and information I need to be successful in my job. I explained how I use Feedly to process hundreds to headlines per day with ease.

Unfortunately, not all content I need to stay on top of my game comes as a RSS feed or the sources do come as RSS feeds but they are to “spamy” to consume that way. So, I use additional digital tools like Apple’s Newsstand & Podcast apps, and Amazon’s Kindle & Audible apps to augment Feedly.

Newsstand

IMG_0011Every morning I read the daily newspapers like Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post on my iPad before I go thru my Feedly feeds. Why? Because the WSJ is the source for business, the NYT is the national paper of record, and the WP is the source for political and world events. With the digital versions I can scan the entire paper in less than 3 minutes and drill down on any stories that interest me. Now, I have all the relevant information from the analog paper world that matters in less than 10 minutes. No way you could do that with the dead trees versions!

Once a week, I scan the weekly magazines like The Economist, BusinessWeek,Time, Newsweek, The Week, GolfWeek and Sports Illustrated to glean the deeper perspective of the stories and issues of the week. Once again, the digital versions of these magazines lend themselves to quickly scanning the headlines and only drilling down on the relevant articles in a way that would be impossible with the analog versions.

On a monthly basis, I scan the Harvard Business Review, Hollywood Reporter, Inc., Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Wired, PC Magazine, PC World, MacLife, Money, Sound & Vision, Golf Digest, Golf, ESPN, Men’s Fitness, Mens Health. Consumer Reports, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Sunset, I3 and Productive magazines to complete my insights on what is going on in the world.

Podcasts

IMG_1267Some content is only available on podcasts so that is how I consume it. Generally, I listed to podcasts in one of two situations. either I am at the gym doing resistance training and stretching, or I am in the car on my daily commute.

There are some wonderful tech podcasts like A16Z, The Cloudcast, Cloud Computing Weekly, Gigaom Structure Show, and McKinsey on High Tech podcasts.

There are also some great business and management podcasts like Manager Tools, Career Tools, On Leadership from the Washington Post and HBR Ideacast.

I like to listen to Freakonomics Radio just to get the weird and humorous side of things.

And finally, I listen to productivity casts like GTD Connect, GTD Virtual Study Group, The Productive Life, Beyond the To-Do List and This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt.

 

Audible

AudibleAudible audiobooks is another way to keep up with “reading” books by listening to them.

I usually listen to audiobooks in the car and really enjoy it. I can fly thru a book relative to reading it because I have  more built-in “listening time” than I do free “reading time” built into my week. Just commuting to work gives me 5 hours a week to listen.

Audible has a great business model where you buy credits and exchange them for books. The net effect of this is you get books that you want to “read” in such a way as to encourage you to get a new book every month. This encourages you to keep listening to new content at a fairly rapid clip in order to use your credits.

Like you would expect from Amazon, Audible does a great job of data analysis from your wish lists and previous purchases from both your Kindle and Audible accounts to recommend titles on sale that you really want.

Kindle

IMG_0012Some books are not available on Audible and are only available on the Kindle. For these types of books and for pleasure reading, I tend to get the Kindle version.

I like the ability to read them on my Kindle Paperwhite reader when I am lying in bed because it is so light or outside in the sunshine when the glare on my iPad makes it difficult to read.

Amazon bought a web site called GoodReads which is a social network for people who love to read. Amazon has done a good job of integrating Audible, Kindle and GoodReads so GoodReads knows about your purchases and can automatically import them.

When I hear about a new book to read I add it to my “To Read” shelf and then when I am ready to read/listen to a new book I just go to GoodReads to see what my next purchase should be. Because it is social, you tend to follow other readers and get recommendations and reviews that enhance the experience. This is one are where the wisdom of the crowd really helps.

The one common thread between Feedly, Newsstand, Podcasts Audible and Kindle is once the content makes the shift from the analog world to the digital world, it becomes much easier to consume content faster and more efficiently. This is critical for keeping up with today’s fast paced world.

Use Feedly to keep up with information overload

Feedly LogoAs a CIO in today’s fast-paced world it has become increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the relevant news and information I need to be successful in my job.

The days of reading a local newspaper, subscribing to a few trade journals, magazines  and watching the news to keep up are long gone. Similarly, surfing the web to try to keep up with everything is not a viable option as it just takes too much time and it is too easy to get trapped in a rabbit hole of non-productivity.

So, what is the modern way to keep up?

I have found using Feedly is the best way to keep on top of all the news and developments I need to be successful in today’s business and technical world. With Feedly I can scan hundreds or thousands of articles from dozens of different sources quickly and efficiently.

Feedly dramatically reduces the friction in information consumption.

With Feedly I can quickly scan RSS (Really Simple Syndication) headlines to determine which ones I want to click on to get more information. Once I click on a particular item of interest, I get a short synopsis of the article and any accompanying pictures. 9 out of 10 times, this snippet/picture combination is enough to convey the relevant information so I do not have to click on the link to actually read the original article. This is the key to the massive time savings I get by using Feedly to process incoming information.

Feedly is free and it is very powerful. A paid version, Feedly Pro has the features you really need to fully experience the full productivity boost. A subscription to Pro costs $5/month or $45/year and it is worth every penny. It is available on the web, Android, Blackberry, Chrome, iOS, Kindle, OS-X, Windows 8 and Windows Phone. That pretty much covers it from a devices perspective.

Choosing feeds is easy. Just search Feedly for your profession/career, your favorite people, your interests, your hobbbies, your passions, your favorite brands, magazines and newspapers, etc. and it will list the feeds available on the subject. When choosing be sure to notice the number of subscribers and the number of posts per week. The more subscribers the better. More posts is not always a good thing. Some feeds are “spamy” and post too many articles relative to the overall value.

My feeds or sources are handled in a very Darwinian way. If a particular feed is not providing relevant information I delete it. If a feed produces too many posts per day that are not relevant, I delete it. Frequently I subscribe to a feed to try it out only to decide it does not make the cut and is delete in a week or so. This results in a very fluid list of sources that is constantly changing.

I currently subscribe to 81 feeds, which result in over 600 posts per day and I am able to process them in less than a half hour.  This allows me to keep up on all the news and events from sources I consider relevant to my career and life.

Here is an example of the list view in Feedly:

Feedly List View
If I want to keep the article for reference or for some kind of follow up, then I just select the “ Evernote” button and it send it directly to Evernote to process later. This is one of the most important aspects of my overall GTD system. feedly-evernote-awardProcessing in Feedly and sending to Evernote is a huge time saver.

As I process, if  the article is something I want to share with others I use the “Buffer” button which will tweet it on Twitter and post it to LinkedIn on a specified schedule. Sometimes, I want to email someone directly and all I have to do is select the email button. Simple. Efficient. Friction-free.

Here is an example of an item that was clicked on to reveal more detail showing the Evernote, Email and Buffer icons:

Feedly Detail

The key to long-term success with Feedly is incorporating it into your daily habits. I usually process my feeds the first thing in the morning when I am at the gym on the elliptical trainer. It works out great because it has a reading stand for the iPad so I can easily use my hands to process my incoming queue of headlines while listening to an up-beat playlist of music. I also use Feedly on my iPhone and Nexus phones regularly.

I consider this a critical part of my overall continual learning experience, so I take it very seriously. So, I treat my incoming RSS Feeds just like my email inbox and try to process all my feeds to zero every day. “Feedly Zero”

I pride myself on knowing information before others and daily processing of RSS feeds is the key to making this a reality. It gives me a competitive advantage in work and life. I am extremely impressed when a colleague tells me something relevant that I do not already know about.  If it happens once in a while then it is just luck or timing but if they consistently know relevant information before I do, then it shows me they have an effective system for processing information and I try to learn how they do it.

With Feedly, I can subscribe to a wide variety of sources and quickly scan what is going on in the world. How do you process information in today’s fast-paced world?