Zettelkasten

Racing – A Time-Saving Technique for Your Information Inflow

Time is the most important asset we have. That is one of the core principles of my approach to productivity. At the same time I am a bad investors when it comes to time.

One of my main culprits are my channels of information inflow. If I would deal with them in a rational manner, I wouldn’t waste so much time. But I dive into my inbox and somehow lose my discipline to really empty it.

  • I re-read emails, instead of answering right away.
  • I let myself stick to every article in my RSS-Reader, when I actually should be cherry-picking in face of the information overload.
  • Instead of reading one page at a time, I have 30+ tabs open in my browser.

What is the solution?

So, I needed to improve my investment strategy. The root cause of my problem is that I changed my agency of investment. Instead of investing in time I begun to focus on information.

My solution is quite simple: Get your attention back to time.

How to achieve that?

When I plow through my inboxes, I try to do so as fast as possible instead of as thorough as possible. I call it racing, because I have the a mindset similar to the one during a race.

Because I use the pomodoro technique I have a count down timer in my menue bar. I am conditioned to work against the clock since some of my training is Crossfit-esque. That means trying to accomplish a fixed workload in the shortest amount of time. (Crossfit is more, but this is the racing part.)

Racing Dog
Photo Credit: RobBixbyPhotography via Compfight cc

Email

For my e-mail I try to use one pomodoro interval only per day. I try to work through all my email in that time frame.

I do that once a day. I incorporated this rule after the lecture of The Four Hour Work Week.1 Because I do quite a lot of Online-Coaching and offer e-mail support to every regular (whether I support my client online or offline), I sometimes have to do e-mail chit-chat. But I try to ignore every e-mail besides that for the day, once I did my lap (pomodoro) of email race. This rule and my racing mindset offers the benefit of only investing 25 minutes or less per day in clearing my e-mail inbox.

RSS-Feed

I have a hefty load of RSS-Feeds. So I need to be very selective what to read with care and what to skim.

  • During my first round of the RSS-Race I only read the titles and bookmark items solely based on their title. I don’t bookmark articles I find interesting unless the have a really interesting title.
  • In the second round I go through my bookmarks and skim the article. In this round many of the articles are chucked out. Again I really try to be fast and not thorough.
  • Whatever is left gets its place in my GTD-like task management system as a “to read”-item and the bookmark is removed. These are the gems I have the feeling could be relevant for my Zettelkasten.

Browser tabs

I have a million tabs open, and the first half is always ignored and old.

Once a week I close each tab for which I don’t immediately understand why it is open. I copy the links from what is left over in my GTD-like task management as a “to read”-item. Then I simply enjoy the breath-taking beauty of a single tabbed browser look.

You are short in time not in information

I saved a lot of time since I changed my mindset. I rarely spend more than 25min of my day for email and cut the time requirement for my RSS-feeds from 2h to 30min. In the end I don’t have the feeling that I miss out on anything. Sometimes I hesitate during the race. However, after the finish I always feel lighter and more free.

Why do we feel the obligation to be thorough with our information inflows?

I believe that this is some form of hunter-gatherer greed, applied to knowledge workers. Being greedy for information is definitely inappropriate in our time of information overload. I am a typical victim of the mismatch of our ancestral heritage and our modern time. Even worse, I consider myself a information binge eater.

To race gives you the opportunity to free yourself from this greed and focus on what really matters: Your time.

Try it and tell me how you felt during and after your race.

  1. Affiliate link; we get a small kickback from the vendor if you buy from this link but it won’t cost you anything.