How I process information (2015 update)

Back in February I wrote a post called How I process information (normally). This is an update to that post with a few tool changes and a few activity changes. I tinker around with my own personal productivity on a regular basis constantly seeking something that fits the demands being placed on me and my personal style, this is the latest iteration of that tinkering. Updates are in italics.


One part of my job is to stay current with the ever-changing technology and business landscapes. This means that I process hundreds (probably thousands) of items of information every day.

I don’t read all of them, but I try to process all of them on a normal day. It should be noted here that I try to have normal days as often as possible, but there are many days when that’s not possible. On those many days I do what I can to keep the framework working.

How I process information (2015 Update)

The normal way that I process information focusses on mornings. I’m mostly a morning person so that’s the best time for me to be alert because processing lots of information you should do when half asleep.

The morning is also the best time, for me, to establish and work through a routine. My morning routine works in six phases:

  • Quiet Time – when I read something that is meaningful normally using an application on my iPhone. I’ll then journal about this into a moleskine notebook.
  • Walk Time – I try to start each day with at least 40 minutes walking. During this time I’ll listen to a podcast on my iPhone. I’ve moved from using the inbuilt podcast application to using overcast it has a few nice features that I like (specifically an easy skip forward capability), but also the inbuilt podcast application ran into a problem and I couldn’t get it working..
  • Scan Time – I will work my way through the overnight deluge of blogs via Feedly and all the interesting updates from Twitter. My focus on Twitter is a set of people I have in a list called Interesting, I am likely to scan through the first few tweets from the rest of the people who I follow but not always. In Feedly I’ll mark some items as Save for Later; in Twitter I’ll Favourite some tweets. Both the favourited tweets and the saved Feedly posts will get copied into Evernote via IFTTT. During scan time I’ll also add a few things to a Buffer queue to get posted on Twitter (and Facebook) during the day, or the next day. Buffer allows me to space out posts so that they don’t all get blurted out in the first hours of the day.
  • Email and Calendar Time – I try to limit the time I spend on work emails. The part that I do in the morning routine is to get to inbox-zero by moving items into one of two folders – Actioned or To ActionIn 2015 we have moved our email services over to Outlook based on Office 365. After more years than I care to mention on Lotus Notes I’ve found the change over to Outlook relatively painless, but I have used Outlook in other aspects of life and for some customer projects so it wasn’t completely alien.
  • Plan Time – I have a physical folder with pre-printed Productivity Schedules in it. I’ll fill one of these out for each day. This becomes my plan for the day, it isn’t a task list it’s more than that, I’ll write about it some time.

It’s worth noting that there is only one application in these phases that is provided by my employer; the rest are either free, or I pay for them, this is my personal productivity regime.

Having written this post I realise that I’m still a bit delinquent on posts for the My Tools series; time to do some catching up.

A number of colleagues have written something similar:

Icons by Garrett Knoll, Brian Gonzalez, Andrea Verzola and Agustin Amenabar Larrin from The Noun Project used under Creative Commons – Attribution (CC BY 3.0)

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