Reading News the GTD way in Outlook

by oneafrikan on August 2, 2005

Thanks to Lifehacker, I came accross this post about how to maximise News reading, while processing News coincidentally.

My situation is different in that I’m using an Outlook/Newsgator/Firefox combo. I’ve been using GTD for just over a year now, and think I’ve managed to settle on a system which makes sense for me, and which makes my life sane enough not to feel that continual feeling of information overwhelm, so I thought I’d share it here as it may help some people get on top of their news.

I’m assuming you have the basics set up:

  • Outlook, with an Inbox where you put all your stuff to process. In my Inbox I process everything with the 30second/2 minute rule, and aim to keep it continually clear of cruft that makes me feel uneasy.
  • Newsgator, with a folder that you use to keep all of your feed posts, probably with a separate folder for each RSS feed. I have a separate PST file allocated for this, called News.
  • Firefox (or a-n-other browser) on the ready for viewing posts on the web.

So here goes:

  1. Sync Newsgator, to get an up to the minute snapshot of all your news. Wait till it’s sync’d the first feed.
  2. OK, now go to your Outlook folder where you keep your news feed posts.
  3. Starting at the top, go through the first folder, moving any news items you are interested in to your Inbox. I just right click, and select “Move to Folder”, and then select my Inbox. I select a viewing based on the subject, because reading through each and every item is just not realistic. DO not read the whole article as this defeats the purpose of processing the news items.
  4. Delete any news items that are not of interest to you.
  5. Make sure that folder is empty, so you remove the worry from your brain.
  6. Move to the next folder, doing the same, until you reach the end of your feeds.
  7. Now move back to your Inbox, and have a look. If you group your items in your Inbox either by email account or type (the ones I’ve used, so there may be more ways), you should see a group of Outlook Post items. These are your RSS news/feed items that you’ve just processed into your Inbox. If you group by date, then there’s a good chance that you’ll have them spread out, depending on when you last sync’d your feeds.
  8. At this stage I evaluate an item based on a few criteria, with the logic working like this:
    1. Do I want to read this further?
      If so, read the article or visit the news item on the web, forward, delete or archive if I want a “hard copy” – I have a “Read later” folder that I go back to when I want to.
    2. Do I want to share this with anyone?
      If so, forward as an email to the relevant people.
      If so, go to the permalink on the web, and make a blogmark post with my own comments, on my blog.
      If so, move the item to my LinkBlog folder, and let OutlookMT do the rest (post to my linkblog).
  9. Once I’ve done the above, I move to the next item, processing the feed items just like I would an email…
  10. And that’s it really – the trick is getting into the habit of getting things done ;-)

This has made me do a few things:
1. Constantly re-evaluate the value of the feeds I read, and the information I want to take in.
2. Read my feeds regularly so I don’t end up with a massive backlog that makes me feel like I’m climbing an information mountain.
3. Make sure that I’m sorting the information I read so that I read that stuff that’s important to me now, and archive the stuff I want to read later.
4. Read News at times that make sense and work within my work day – I find that doing it once a day (either first thing, or last thing) works best for me.

Some additional notes that may be helpful:
1. I also create Outlook Notes in my Inbox, where I make notes for myself, copy and paste links I want to follow later, or keep feed post ideas that I want to process later.
2. From anywhere in Outlook do a CTRL-SHIFT-K for a new task, CTRL-SHIFT-A for a new appointment, CTRL-SHIFT-C for a new contact.
3. I think tha number one tip, is to set Outlook to “Work Offline” once you’ve done your processing. Process, work. Process, work. Process, work.

Does that help anyone? Does anyone have anything to add that may help?

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