Maybe you have a new job. Maybe new technology is affecting how you do your job. Maybe new technology might affect if you even have a job in a few years.
Whatever is new or changing in your life, I'm going to guess that at times, you probably feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new or change you have to deal with.
So, here's my advice for keeping on top of trends, tech or otherwise: Find the time to learn.
The Investment: How-To
Here's how I find time to learn, and recommend you do, too.
1. Bring the news to you
Subscribe to a whole bunch of daily aggregators and weekly or monthly e-Newsletters in your field. For me, that's Ragan's daily headlines, PR Daily, SmartBrief on Social Media, Jakob Nielsen's Alert Box, Wylie's Writing Tips, IABC, CPRS, and others. As I do research for my expanding client base, I'm adding to that list.
To get them to you, use whatever will be easiest for you. If you have a lot of desk time, I've found email to be the best aggregator. I use rules or a special email to direct these to a particular folder.
If your favourite content providers don't have subscription options, try my IFTTT recipe for a work-around.
2. Scan and Clip or Trash
So now you're getting all these emails or articles in your feed reader. Now what? Here's what I do so my head doesn't explode.
When the emails come in, scan the headlines very quickly. Let's be honest, there's not a lot of time in the day. If you see something of interest, click and further scan the article right away.
Why read the article right away, rather than putting it in a "read it later" pile? There is no point to this exercise if these emails just add to clutter. If you miss a day, delete yesterday's emails. The point is not to add to guilt or to-do list, the point is to take advantage of learning opportunities as they arise.
After you scan the article, if you think you might need to refer to it again (for bolstering an argument, or sharing, for example), save it somewhere where you can categorize it. My favourite way to do this is with Evernote. Pinterest is another way to do this, but I find the tagging and cataloguing capabilities of Evernote much more robust.
3. Schedule it in
Find that time of day when you'd otherwise be staring at your phone or computer playing Candy Crush or lost in Buzzfeed. Start making a habit of checking your feed or subscription emails instead.
For me, this is on the bus, or first thing in the morning. As I need to also be sharing this sort of content on a regular basis, I use the Scan-and-Clip to also find things to post to social media. It's like getting 2 donuts for the price of one (I don't like killing birds with stones).
4. Prioritize learning
Make learning new things a priority for you. Take time to go to free training opportunities that arise—through work, through professional organizations, or all those things you subscribe to.
I can hear the "but ... there's no time!" arguments brewing for that last point. But here's the thing. By taking the time to learn, I don't have to take the time to muddle. Which brings me to the 3
The Payback: Why-Do
Short-term gains: Serendipity
Maybe you have a presentation coming up, and you need case studies or statistics. Rather than spending hours at crunch time, if you've been scanning and clipping, you've got those at your fingertips.
Medium-term gains: Expertise cred and network building
If you see an article that might not be in your bailiwick, but is for someone in your company or network, sending an "I came across this article that might be of benefit to you; let me know if you want to discuss" email builds your network and credibility.
Long-term gains: Cool jobs and new opportunities
There are plenty of statistics out there about jobs that didn't exist XX years ago (and yes, I just dug this one out of my clips).
For me, I worked part-time on a Master's degree in Communications and Technology for three years. It was a lot of work, but because of the theories that I studied and the technologies that I was able to tinker with during those three years, I have had 2 jobs and started a company that specialize in a field that didn't exist 10 years ago. If I hadn't been learning all along, I couldn't have taken advantage of these opportunities.
In fact, if I had stopped learning in my field, I'm guessing I'd have been obsolete 3 years ago, maybe sooner. Things change awfully quickly nowadays. So I'm going to keep finding the time to learn.
What about you? I'd love to hear your tips and tribulations in the comments.