Creating a learning workflow

As web professionals we need to keep up with latest innovations. Finding the time to do this requires a streamlined workflow.

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How do you find the time to stay current with all of the innovations in digital? It’s a question I get asked all of the time and to be honest it is not easy. The web changes at such a phenomenal rate that keeping up can feel like a full time job.

For me, keeping up is only possible because I have a workflow that streamlines the process and ensures I get the most out of what I have read. In this post I want to share that process in the hopes it will allow you to learn more efficiently too.


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My process consists of three stages:

  • Gather
  • Process
  • Act

Let’s look at each in turn.

Gather

The first step in staying current is working out what you need to know. I achieve that in three ways.

First, I subscribe to numerous RSS feeds from key publications that I scan using Feedly on my iPad each evening.

Feedly
Feedly allows me to process my RSS feeds quickly.

Second, I follow industry experts on Twitter and look for any articles they are talking about. I speed this process by using a search of any mentions of links among those I follow. I still have to skip all of the photos they post, but its quicker than reading every tweet.

The problem with these two methods is that they can create a ‘filter bubble.’ This means that you can miss out on valuable content that is discussed outside of your normal sources.

To combat this problem I use an app called Zite on the iPad. Instead of subscribing to specific people or sites, you subscribe to topics and Zite presents you with content relating to that topic from a wide range of sources. It is effectively my wildcard to ensure I am not always hearing from the same people.

Zite
Zite is my wildcard, ensuring I am not just hearing from the same people all of the time.

I regularly scan each of these sources looking for potentially interesting content. When I find it, I save it for later processing.

Processing

When I find something interesting it is almost always saved to Pocket. I use Pocket over the competition for a couple of reasons.

First, Pocket supports video as well as written content. Second, it does a great job at drawing my attention to the more important content I have saved.

Pocket
One of the reasons I favour Pocket is that it is available wherever I go.

With content now in Pocket, I work my way through articles and videos whenever I have a spare moment. It might be reading on my iPad in bed or on my phone while waiting for a train. The idea is to identify whether what I have collected has worth or not. I am merciless and bin articles that don’t live up to their initial scan. There is far too much content out there to waste time on a post with no value.

When I do find something of interest, I don’t want to just read it and then forget it. I want to integrate what I have read into my job. Everything has to be acted upon.

Act

One action is to delete an article. Much of what I read I either know, is poor quality or is not relevant to me. I try to filter those out in the gather stage, but when things sneak through I stop reading as soon as I realise and move on to something else.

If something proves useful I tend to do one or more of three things with it. I keep it for future reference, take some action from it or share it with others.

Keep it for reference

Some things you read cannot be immediately applied to your situation, but may prove useful reference material in the future. Typically this includes a great snippet of code, useful quote or compelling statistic.

This kind of content need saving somewhere which you reference regularly. If you don’t, it just becomes a black hole you pour content into.

Evernote results alongside Google
Evernote results appear alongside Google ensuring that its content is not forgotten.

In my case this is Evernote. I have many reasons for using Evernote, not least of which is the fact that it is easy to send content from Pocket to Evernote. However, the biggest reason is the fact that Evernote results appear right alongside Google. This means that when I search for something on Google, it will also make sure I see any pieces I have saved to Evernote too. This stops content I have saved from being missed when it might be useful.

Take an action

Other content that I read has a more immediate action that comes out of it. It might be to implement a technique I have read about, discuss it with a client or even contact the author. Whatever the case, it needs to be added to my task list.

I am a big Getting Things Done fan so if the task only takes a couple of minutes I tend to do it immediately. However, anything longer goes into Omnifocus.

Share it

Probably the most common action I take is to share on social networks. Because I am involved on a number of platforms I tend to use Buffer for this job. Not only does this allow me to post to multiple networks simultaneously it also spreads those posts so people aren’t bombarded with links if I sit down to read a load of articles one evening.

Buffer App
Buffer allows me to share to multiple social networks simultaneously.

Finally Buffer is integrated into Feedly and Pocket, making it incredibly easy to post.

Ruthless efficiency

We work in an industry where information overload is inevitable. There is just so much content being put out that we need to be ruthlessly efficient in how we deal with it. We need to ignore the majority, cull the weakest of what is left and process what remains as fast as possible. For that you need a workflow.

“Business Meeting Flat Illustration” image courtesy of Bigstock.com

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