How I Read

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In this highly anticipated post (sarcasm), I wanted to talk about how I read.  But before I dive into that, I should talk a little bit about the goal here.

I read (outside of work) mostly to broaden or deepen my perspective.

Most of my reading falls into two categories that each have a little bit different flavor:

  1. Newspaper & Magazine Articles
  2. Books

For newspaper and magazine articles, I generally read on my laptop.  I’ve not converted to any type of e-reader, although I’ve read some reasons why those can work well, especially for annotating and highlighting.  There are a few publications to which I subscribe: Barron’s & Stratechery (Christmas Present). The rest of these sources are either blogs, newspaper, or magazine articles that I’ve found useful and track through Feedly.  Email digests just don’t work for me.

Side note:  I almost gave up my Barron’s subscription this year, but was “salvaged” by an astute customer service rep.

Books have been a challenge lately.  My eyes have been bigger than my stomach.  My pile of “want to read” books keep expanding.  But I keep choosing books that seem to turn into too much work and I get bogged down.  My current solution has been to focus on things I really want to read and ensure I alternate a heavier read, followed by a lighter read.  We’ll see how this turns out; my goal is to read 15 books this year. Holy crap, 113 books! Can I count my daughter’s bed time stories?

There are a couple areas that I think could be better.  

One, is throughput of higher quality content.  This includes a shift to more books and less articles.  This also includes making the input funnel more efficient at screening out lower quality reads.  I have found that I read the “news” as a distraction (or procrastination method) and generally don’t take much away from it.  

The other issue is that in pursuit of good content, you end up down a rabbit hole of links.  Oohh, look, a shiny thing. Wait, Patagonia is having sale. Oohh, look, another shiny thing. You’re right, I wouldn’t have believed that happened unless it was caught on video…

Two, is ensuring that I truly absorb the information.  With so much information blowing by me on a daily basis, it is pretty easy to only superficially digest things.  Sorry babe, yes I am listening now. So this involves taking better notes, reviewing notes, and filing good stuff away in an accessible way for later reference.  I could definitely use some help here.

Side note: I purchased the book, How To Read A Book, and it’s still in my “want to read” pile. Fail.

Ok, enough about that, here’s how I read today.

For internet based reading:

  1. Feedly – Aggregation
  2. Evernote – Reading & Reviewing
  3. Evernote – Classification & Reference

As I said earlier, I mostly use Feedly to aggregate and scan content.  The only real exceptions to this would be Bloomberg, Barron’s, and Stratechery.  Those I go direct.

My Feedly setup looks like this:

If you know me, you will be surprised to see that I have setup a series of folders based loosely on content topic.  I will add and remove sources periodically. The Debatable folder is for new content that I’m unsure about. A few of these sources are really digests themselves, but that’s ok. I risk missing some content but get the benefit of someone else doing the initial screen.

The goal here is to scan this once a day and identify things I would like to read.  Wait, no reading yet. That’s right. I try to separate the identification of interesting reads from the actual reading.  One, this is just generally more efficient to review all my feeds to see what’s out there in one sitting. Two, it prevents you from going down the rabbit hole.  Three, I find the buffer actually helps me prioritize as sometimes something that seems super interesting turns out to lose its luster with a bit of time.

Here’s where I made a recent change.  I used to mark ‘Read Later” in Feedly.  However, this doesn’t work for content not in Feedly.  So for that content, I was saving to Evernote. However, this was creating two piles of “Read Later” items.  So, I stopped saving in Feedly and now save all “Read Later” items to Evernote.

So that’s it for Feedly.  It’s really just my early stage pipeline.

Most my reading takes place in Evernote.  Recently, I installed the desktop version (I’m a PC).  Here’s what that looks like:

In a surprising turn of events, I have set up a series of folders.

The Read Me folder is where all new articles go.  Pro Tip: In your Evernote browser extension, set the default folder to always be this folder.  I also prefer the Simplified article format for most things as it removes a lot of the distractions.  Wait, Patagonia is having a sale…

Side note: Listen to Me is for podcasts.  I’m not a big consumer of these. I try. It’s not my preferred format.

Read Me is where I spend my time. When I have time to read, I choose from the articles saved here. No searching for content. Already filtered and somewhat prioritized.

Evernote allows me to highlight and add commentary.  The only thing I wish, is that I could actually add comments sort of like marking up a Word document, so I could actually just search my comments later.  I’ve not figured out a way to do this.

Currently, there are 152 articles in that folder.  More than I can get through in a month, without adding any more.  I could use a system for kicking stuff out of here. Seems that if I’ve not read an article after a certain point, I must have lost interest.  I’m sorry A better way to understand internal rate of return, you sounded very interesting and ambitious when I read your title, but that was two years ago.

My thought is a date based approach (maybe 90 or 180 days), but since I just migrated all my Feedly Read Later stuff into this folder (messing with the timestamps), that’s not going to work for while.

Once I read an article, it goes into the Monthly Review List folder.  At the end of the month, I scan my notes and file into an appropriate folder.

Pro Tip: Make sure you synch at least a few offline folders to your Evernote app on your phone, so you scan while in flight.  That’s a great setting to go back and look through old topics.

Books are another topic.  I do like my paper-based books.  Despite some hesitation, I’ve started highlighting and writing notes in the margins.  This isn’t really helping with accessibility later, so it’s something I need to think about.

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