A colleague recently asked me this question “In 2021 I am trying to be more intentional about my content consumption. You strike me as a voracious reader but also someone who has a healthy media diet. What have you learned and incorporated into your routine? Bonus points for life hacks and technology that help you do this.”

I am sharing my reply to her below in case it helps other people.

Here is what works for me:

(Getting more time) 

  • I avoid most social feeds. Don’t have social media accounts except for Twitter. And even on Twitter, I don’t follow anyone, so my feed is empty. Same with Linkedin. So I guess I  have more time than the average person thanks to spending less time on Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook. 
  • I don’t consume news that much. Thanks to no social feed and not having any news apps on my phone I don’t get much news, except what comes on the chrome home page, which I have not disabled as of now. I do browse Reddit. It is my guilty pleasure. So I get some news/updates indirectly I guess. I (think) I have slightly less anxiety nowadays thanks to not worrying about all the thing wrong with the world. And also not spending time on the hottest topic of the day helps.

(What I do with my time instead) 

  • I follow a lot of good newsletters. So most of my knowledge of what is happening with the world comes from them. I check them when I get time.  
  • I think I have some sort of Attention Deficit Disorder thing because of which I just can’t focus on any one thing for a long time. I keep checking my phone out of habit every 10 mins. When I am reading on my kindle I get bored with a book and switch to another one. To avoid this, I keep Forest app on for 20 mins chunk so that if I open my phone out of habit I see that there is a tree growing and I put the phone back.  It has helped me get most of my reading time. 
  • I have 2 kindles: One for fiction and another for non-fiction (where I take highlights which I later turn into book summaries). Late-night I read fiction before sleeping. Whenever I have time during the day, I read Non-fiction. Since I can’t focus on one book, I simultaneously read like a dozen books, all in different stages.
  • Yesterday I was reading Psychology of Money in the evening, then read Open by Agassi, then I read 4 hour week by Tim Ferris. On a normal day, I get around 3-4 hours of reading done and read around 4-5 books (depending on my mood). I keep switching books every 20 mins or something. I also read fast.
  • If I read 100 books a year, in another 10 years I would have read 1000 more books. There is no way I would remember every line from the books I read. TBH I was a massive Harry Potter fan as a kid. I even have a Harry Potter tattoo. But I barely remember anything from the books, except the plot, in spite of reading each book in the series like half a dozen times. As I grew older I realized I have to change the way I read.
  • My current reading workflow is around getting to the meat of the content, take aggressive notes, compiling them into summaries which I publish on my website. While editing the summaries I read the most important points for the 2nd time. A few months later, I read the summary again. So instead of reading slow and trying to soak everything in one attempt, my goal is to read fast, highlight everything I find interesting, and then through note-taking learn more.
  • My note-taking workflow:
    1. Highlight everything on Kindle.
    2. Once a month export my clippings.txt file (which contains all the highlights) from Kindle to my laptop (just connect your Kindle to your laptop, check storage and you will find it).
    3. Upload it on this site.
    4. Then copy-paste the notes for each book to a new blog post.
  • BTW just know that some people like reading books slowly. Savour every paragraph. Get lost in the environment. And there is nothing wrong in that. It is just not my reading style. Do whatever that makes sense to you.
  • I keep most of the things I want to read in a bookmarks folder called ‘to-reads’. Otherwise, I only add items to my bookmarks once I have read them. This avoids stuffing links in Pocket and then forgetting about them. 
  • I listen to podcasts while working out. Earlier when the office was open, I used to listen while commuting. 
  • One interesting thing to ask: What is the most interesting book/podcast I could be consuming instead of reading what is easily accessible? I add a lot of podcasts to my downloads but only listen to the ones I am in the mood for. If something is on my downloads for a long time, I delete them. I do the same with my bookmarks in my ‘to-reads’ folder. 
  • I find it helpful to set goals for the year, so that whenever I am bored, I can just pick from one of the goals. These goals come from a long list of priorities that I maintain.
  • The biggest hack when it comes to time management is being very deliberate; know where you are spending your waking hours. Calendar audit helps.