Keep up with social and news without going crazy
Issue No. 5
As I'm building this newsletter (and a podcast and YouTube channel) in the open, you will get updates on this project here from time to time.
How many times did you scroll a social network today and didn't even choose to do it? It's automatic, overwhelming, and anxiety-inducing.
Today's internet tries to hook you in and hold your attention. And unfortunately, it's easy to fall into rabbit holes, scroll feeds mindlessly, and get addicted.
At the same time, we are seeing an explosion of creators making newsletters, blogs and videos. If we manage to sift through the noise, we can find valuable nuggets that can inform, inspire and open our minds.
How can we own our time and attention and get the best content on the things we love?
💬 In this issue, I cover:
- My method involves reshaping my habits, reading in batches, and skimming before committing and storing for later.
- The tools I use to aggregate everything, batch it up, read it and then keep it in my long-term memory.
- Some of the sources I follow.
🧭 My Method
I can't claim to have a perfect solution, but here is what I do today. I manage to keep up with our industry in around 20-30 minutes a day, usually with my first coffee ☕️ or on the porcelain throne 🚽.
The method I use is to:
- Break the habit - I have removed the habit of scrolling through the feeds of Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc., from my reflexes. That meant deleting a lot of social apps from my phone. Instead, I use web apps (always worse than the app and less addictive) on my mobile, and I have disabled push notifications for any apps left on my phone. I've almost completely broken the habit of aimlessly scrolling on my phone.
- Batch read - I use tools to get curated feeds on a daily, weekly and monthly basis depending on the type of source I want to ingest.
- Skim before committing - I've stopped reading articles in full straight away. Instead, I'll skim them first. Sometimes that is enough to capture the big idea(s). Sometimes that means I read it after scanning it. Otherwise, I close the tab or save it in my long-term storage for later.
- Save in long-term storage for later - If there is some value in a tweet, article or document that I want to save for later. Then I will save it in my long-term storage for future reference when I might need to dive deep into a subject. I keep a tagged and organised repository of all articles I've read or would like to keep on a wide range of topics.
📥 Aggregating, batching and reading - MailBrew
The core of my system is MailBrew (affiliate link). All my feeds and newsletters are aggregated via Mailbrew, digested and spat out into daily and weekly emails.
Mailbrew can connect to many data sources, including Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. You can also forward (or subscribe directly) all your newsletters to Mailbrew. Finally, it can act like a "reader" app like Instapaper or Pocket (I've used both in the past).
I use MailBrew as my single tool to concentrate all my feeds. In addition, it is where I do most of my reading.
🧠 Storing and Organising - Zotero
Academics use Zotero to collect, organise, cite, and share research. My workflow from reading ("research") to tracking and organising what I have read is similar to academic research. I have found it a nifty tool to manage all the links and documents I come across into collections and tags.
When I encounter an article or document that I want to keep for later, I store it in Zotero.
Later, when researching a topic I want to write about, I can easily search for and compile a collection in Zotero.
Zotero gives me superpowers because even if I skim an article on a topic, I can store it and review it later when it most matters.
⛲️ My Data Sources
Here are some of the data sources I follow.
📰 News & Business
I used to ignore the news, but I found a small amount valuable and enjoyable.
- I have tried various newsletters that aggregate the news into a short, concise email. While it is not perfect, I have settled on the New York Times "Morning Briefing: Europe Edition" (see an example). If I skim this email, I know what is going on in the world with enough detail.
- It is tough to beat the New York Times' DealBook for business news and analysis.
🖥️ Tech News
- Tech Meme - a daily digest of what is going on. I tend to skim this one as there is a lot.
- Hacker Newsletter - Hacker News used to be a daily addiction until Kale Davis created this weekly summary newsletter. It has been nearly twelve years that I haven't the site except when I want to search for something.
- Benedict Evans's Newsletter - I tend to read the summaries rather than click all the links. I find Ben Evan's point of view interesting.
🧑💻 Product and Engineering
These first two are very similar—a weekly roundup of blogs and tweets on engineering, leadership and culture.
I think these folks or publications put out consistently good content on product management, software engineering, engineering management and building companies.
- Sunday Brain Food newsletter from Farnam Street always has a valuable thought that I like reading every Sunday.
That is all for this week folks, have a great week!
Don't ignore your dreams, don't work too much, say what you think, cultivate friendships, and be happy.