Want to read more, but just don’t have the time? Let someone else read for you!
It’s not crazy. There are a number of tools, most online and many for free, where someone else does the “heavy lifting” of reading everything, summarizing what’s most important and prescient for you.
In just a few minutes, you can read what all the major news sources think is news for the day.
In just four pages, you can read an entire business book.
In a single screen, you can consume a week’s worth of a dozen blogs.
The key to making this work is aggregating and using tools that accomplish two objectives: Filter & Summarize.
There’s too much out there to begin with, so you need others to decide what’s best. There are services like Alltop that do this by category, and on most blogs and news sites you can use the “most read” or “most emailed” lists to prioritize your reading (this is the primary means by which I read The New York Times these days, for example). In addition:
“Best of the Best” summaries from your favorite blogs
Many blogs feature regular “links” posts, which summaries their take on great related blogging from across the blogosphere. I regularly count on these bloggers to do the heavy-lifting and deep-reading for me, then just scan their summaries for stories I might want to read more about. Some blogs with particularly good summaries are LifeHacker (for productivity best practices) WiseBread (for great personal finance advice), and B2B Savvy (for great B2B marketing and content strategy advice).
A team of editors on literally dozens of topics scours the Web every business day and delivers a tightly-edited email to your inbox each morning, which over the course of several days gives you a variety of writers, topics and top-tier content. Highly recommended.
A tightly-curated Twitter list via Hootsuite
In every industry, there are Twitter publishers who effectively summarize some of the best articles and perspectives they find. I recommend finding and curating these publishers into Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or whatever Twitter tool you use. Check it 1-2 times a day, or 1-2 times a week. It’ll be there when you’re ready.
Your PR firm
Why not ask the people you’re already paying to get you in the news, to also help you watch and read the most important news? Ask for a late afternoon email summary of the most important headlines and links for the day – covering trends, competitors, opinions and more for your industry.
Narrowing down to what’s most important is a great start. But sometimes you either only need, or only have time for, the gist of the book, article, essay or report. Let others do this work for you too:
Although I desperately miss Slate’s Morning Papers column (where, every morning, seven days a week, a Slate staffer read the five top daily newspapers (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times) and then summarized what those papers consider news for the day), The Slatest isn’t a bad alternative. On particularly busy days, I find myself using The Slatest as a quick alternative to reading a variety of other publications (NY Times, Washington Post, etc.) individually.
The Wall Street Journal’s Morning Brief email
This morning email (every day except Sunday) gives a real-time, morning-of summary of what’s become news since the print edition went to press the night before. Even more interesting is the bottom-half of the email, which summaries (and links to) news stories from a variety of other publications. It’s a great way to catch up on interesting news from corners of the publishing world I rarely get to personally, and it takes less than a minute to scan each day. While you’re at it, sign up for their close-of-market update email too, for a quick check on how the markets ended and a summary of what’s been going on the past six hours.
For just over a dollar a week, this service offers an archive of hundreds of popular business books covering a wide range of topics, all summarized down to 3-4 pages. Most good business books are based on a handful of strong ideas, then fill pages of copy with examples, analysis, the author’s further opinion, etc. There’s no reason why you can’t capture that one strong idea in a couple summarized pages, then move on. Summaries are available in various formats for easy reading on the go, or print-outs via PDF for your commute.
What have I missed? What services and tools do you count on to summarize news and important information for you? Please share your ideas and suggestions in the comments!
Matt Heinz is president of Heinz Marketing, a Redmond-based sales & marketing firm. You can connect with Matt via email, Twitter, LinkedIn or his blog. He writes occasionally on GeekWire under the column Productivity Porn. Previous columns…An introduction to productivity porn: How to be lazy, productive & successful… 15 New Year Resolutions for Entrepreneurs.… Productivity Porn: 7 tricks for beating procrastination.