Thursday, April 26, 2012

Better 'Later' Than 'Now or Never'

As an expert, you're expected to be up-to-date with the latest in your area of expertise. But there's just so much information available now that you might be struggling to keep up with all the incoming-email, blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates and Google alerts.

You can't just stop work to process this information as it arrives, because you'll never get any other work done. But you also can't file it away for reading "tomorrow", because tomorrow never comes. So you just end up feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

The solution is to file it away for later, but make sure you have systems in place to process it later.

And this is where the Cloud comes to the rescue...

Using "the Cloud" simply means you have your documents on the Internet, accessible from anywhere and at any time. You don't have to print out articles, transfer files using a USB stick or burn them to a CD. You just put them in the Cloud, and you automatically have access to them from your computer, phone or tablet. This means you can work on them when you choose and where you choose.

For example, if you're at the gym or in the car, you can listen to podcasts and other audio programs.

Or if somebody is late for a meeting or you're waiting in line for a take-away coffee, you can read a few blog posts and articles. You might only have a few minutes, but that's enough time for some productive reading.

There are two secrets to making this work effectively.

1. Don't choose and read at the same time.

The first secret is to separate your filtering time from your reading time.

Filtering time is when you're processing all the incoming stuff and choosing what to keep. It's when you check your incoming e-mail, look at your Twitter feed, look at the list of blog posts, and download podcasts.

When you're doing this processing, don't be tempted to stop and read the stuff you think is worthwhile. That slows you down, and distracts you from other work. Instead, simply mark this for later reading, and keep going until you've "emptied" your in-box, blog feed, Twitter list, etc.

2. File stuff in the Cloud.

The second secret is to keep the stuff for later reading in the Cloud (in other words, filed away on the Internet and not on your computer hard disk). This means it's automatically available to you later.

Here's one simple example...

I use Google's free Google Reader to subscribe to blogs - and I subscribe to a lot of them.

To keep this under control, I use the free "Read It Later" tool in my Web browser (Firefox), which shows a little icon next to each blog post to mark it for later reading. Whenever I mark a blog post this way, it gets added to my Read It Later account on the Internet. I also have the Read it Later app on my phone and tablet, and it automatically downloads these blog posts regularly. I can then read them whenever I like, even when I don't have Internet access (for example, on a long flight).

All by just clicking one little icon next to a blog post!

THAT'S the power of the Cloud.

That's just one way you can use the Cloud for greater productivity. All it takes is understanding what's possible and spending a few minutes setting it up. After that, it's automatic and easy.

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