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  • How to handle excessive input

    I spend around 2-3 hours a day listening to a podcast that contains technical information on a steep career learning curve. I was trying to play catch up on this podcast that publishes once a week but was recorded around 90 weeks ago. So over the last three months I've been listening to one weekly podcast a day.

    The input actions and projects from the podcasts could be research this website, research this tool, test this tool, read this book, subscribe to this podcast, read this article etc. I could input between 10-15 projects/actions a day. These get inputted onto my PPC and then at the end of the day this is sync'd to my Outlook client. These appear as tasks under the category of None.

    I am as of this morning up-to-date on the podcast BUT I have a very long list of actions and projects to sort through in the None category. I currently have around 120-150 projects on the go as it is. When I sort through this None list it could be in the 300-400 range.

    What I would like to know is do I spend the time sorting through this list creating actions and projects from them and then review them to look at adding more to someday/maybe or do I place them all in Someday/Maybe now, review my current project list and then shuffle around?

    Also what happens next week when the next podcast is released? I really need to keep on top of this. But ultimately this is only one podcast that I'm listening to in order to increase my knowledge and make progress. This is before I even open up my RSS feeder.

    Grateful for any help.

    Jason

  • #2
    I would normally say, throw them all in Someday/Maybe.

    But since this is part of an active project and you have some level of commitment related to each one of the things you capture, you might consider creating a category just for this project: "@Learning Stuff". This list is probably not quite Someday/Maybe and also not quite Active. But at the very least, when you're spending non-podcast time on the project, you don't have to wade through all of your Someday/Maybe's -- climbing over things like "Take a hot air baloon ride over the grand canyon" and "paint a big checkered flag on the garage floor" -- just to pick out something to research. During your weekly review, you could also pick a few items from this list and put them into your more formal context lists.

    Comment


    • #3
      Is it like a course, in that the current podcasts build on previous weeks? In that case, you might want to make the actions from the first few podcasts current and defer everything else. You might also want to defer listening to further podcasts until you've had a chance to catch up on the "homework." When you're in a hole, quit digging!

      Or, if you've been just collecting for three months you may find that many of your earlier notes are no longer relevant in light of newer information. In that case, you might want to start with the actions from the most recent podcasts and defer everything else.

      Regardless of how you prioritize, IMO it's very important to do *something* to trim that list down. Unless you are planning to essentially become a fulltime student focusing on the contents of this podcast, the load you're describing is simply not realistic. Even fulltime, you are talking about several months of work.

      Since this is technical material with a steep learning curve, you might also ultimately save yourself time if you step back to a lower level. It's possible that you simply don't have the "prerequisites" at this time, and should focus on learning (or brushing up on) that material instead.

      Good luck!

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks for the tips and your promptness too.

        Does this context have to be specific or could it be generic like @Learning Stuff? The reason I ask is that I'm learning "stuff" on other areas of my life too like GTD etc etc.

        Is it better to keep this context clean for just career stuff or is it safe to mix?

        @Katherine - It's a never ending course I guess. Things are moving in this area very quickly but also material thats 3-5 years old is still relevant. I think I may be trying to do something that is not quite possible and that is to rush getting to the top of that curve as quickly as possible. Ultimately its a practical course and that takes most of the time. You can hear about it, read about it and study it but you in the end have to use it and practice it to make any use.
        Last edited by JasonJ; 12-10-2007, 02:32 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by JasonJ View Post
          @Katherine - It's a never ending course I guess. Things are moving in this area very quickly but also material thats 3-5 years old is still relevant. I think I may be trying to do something that is not quite possible and that is to rush getting to the top of that curve as quickly as possible. Ultimately its a practical course and that takes most of the time. You can hear about it, read about it and study it but you in the end have to use it and practice it to make any use.
          My field is something like that as well. One of the biggest traps I fall into is feeling like I should learn "everything" about a subfield before proceeding. Which is simply not possible given my time constraints and the speed with which the field is moving. In my case, the best approach seems to be to stay current on the "big picture," while only delving into specifics when I need specific chunks of information. You might find it helpful to figure out exactly what you want to *do* with all this information, and use that project as the organizing principle for all your potential actions.

          Good luck!

          Katherine

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by JasonJ View Post
            Does this context have to be specific or could it be generic like @Learning Stuff? The reason I ask is that I'm learning "stuff" on other areas of my life too like GTD etc etc.

            Is it better to keep this context clean for just career stuff or is it safe to mix?
            I was trying (unsuccessfully, I suppose) to suggest that you create a specific context -- replace "stuff" with whatever it is that you're trying to learn ("@Learning to do home surgery", or "@Learning gingerbread architecture", or whatever it is).

            Like I said, I would normally suggest that you simply dump everything that you're not going to do 'soon' into Someday/Maybe; but you've apparently got a huge list of things specific to this one subject, so I would opt for segregating that list just for the sake of organizing your Someday/Maybes. I would be cautious about taking this too far (creating a separate "@Learning ..." list for each and every thing you're interested in, for example), but if it helps you to stay focused on your studies, I say go for it.

            Comment


            • #7
              I think there's something to be said for deciding *not* to do certain things.

              I realize you're trying to take in everything the podcast has to offer, but given what you've said, I just don't think it's realistic to expect yourself to learn *everything* mentioned on the podcast.

              If it were me, I'd pick 3-5 (or whatever number is feasible) items per episode to investigate/evaluate/learn/etc. Pick the ones that you feel would be the most beneficial to your and your goals.

              Keeping up at the rate you're going will likely end in burn-out, I think.

              Good luck

              Comment


              • #8
                Overly Ambitious?

                Brett has hit the nail on the head, the road to burnout this way lies.
                Completing a 90-week training program in 90 days would be difficult if one were working on it full-time, let alone the fact that you have a job and a life (maybe).
                Step back and sort through the information that is most important to getting to the next step, and give yourself some more time.
                Stop listening to the weekly podcast, and get caught up. Then create a schedule to listen to 2 podcasts per week until you catch up to the "live" release.

                Comment


                • #9
                  a different take on it

                  Hi Jason. This is a great question. Here's my take on it: It's a project (albeit a very large one), so I'd suggest the basics:

                  o Make a project for it - put a master entry in your projects list.

                  o Make folders for the project - paper, disk, and/or email. You know you'll have a ton of incoming materials, and you need a "no brainer" place to put them.

                  o Break the project down into actions - such as the ones you've listed - and record all the possible ones in a master planning document for the project. You can use paper or digital, but you need to capture them in one place. I would not recommend using Someday/Maybe. These are real candidates for action, and you'll need them in a place connected to the project.

                  o Pull out as many as you are comfortable handling. The variables are how much energy you have for the project, and how fast you want to move it along. Remember, having multiple actions for the same project is OK.

                  o Don't use contexts unless you need to. This is the principle of KISS - don't add complexity unless you need to. It's just a project.

                  o Create checklists or block out time to keep up with the podcasts, but only if you need to (e.g., you're falling behind). Alternatively, you may want to have this podcast coming directly into your email inbox. This is not something I usually recommend (the opposite, actually), but it may help you respond more quickly if that's a priority.


                  If this is all to overwhelming, you might consider breaking the master project into "sub-projects". That's another story - holler if you need help with that.

                  Hope that helps!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    And then notice what works (or doesn't)

                    Excellent suggestions, one and all.

                    My contribution is to suggest you regularly and honestly look at what is working and what isn't (Weekly Review maybe). If you actually put together a system that enables you to handle this massive amount of input, great! But if leaks appear or continue, I think wisdom, and perhaps sanity, will call for rethinking the plan and focusing on what IS working so you can achieve sustainable progress.

                    Just what came to me.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JasonJ View Post
                      The input actions and projects from the podcasts could be research this website, research this tool, test this tool, read this book, subscribe to this podcast, read this article etc. I could input between 10-15 projects/actions a day.
                      If you are not doing so already, you may also want to quickly id each of your input items at the start with "Site: davidco.com - what is gtd?" for all website research or "Tool: thinkingrock - what version avail?" for tools, etc. That may help you quickly locate entries of a similar nature. Alternately, you can id each entry by topic of the podcast, such as "widget coding (wc)" "widget marketing (wm)", etc. A quick search or just sorting alpha will just pull that up.

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