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Keeping up to Date Without Feeling Overwhelmed

heypaulmcgrath profile image Paul McGrath✨ Updated on ・2 min read

Keeping up to date as a developer is tough.

As a creative community, our collective output of tutorials, libraries, side projects, and blog-posts is enormous, and trying to keep on top of it can often feel like drinking from a fire-hose.

Sorting relevant content from a steady stream can become tricky in this world full of noise, so having an effective strategy is vital. We don’t want to miss out on what’s most important to us, after all.

Signal v. Noise

Until this year, I used Twitter and an RSS feed reader daily, spending much of my downtime just scrolling for new, exciting, or relevant content.

A unintended by-product of this approach was the Fear Of Missing Out, which made me feel a bit anxious about checking and scrolling at all times of the day. This, I call, passive consumption without focus, and gives the poorest return for your time.

Scrolling on Twitter or your favourite aggregator may be entertaining, but it is low-value as you’re engaged in an unfiltered communal sorting process, where we collectively decide what is good, and what isn’t.

While beneficial for the community, as an individual your attention is being pulled in many different directions at once, and it’s extremely hard to focus intently on the topics that you care exclusively about.

In order to optimise this approach a bit, the trick is to have some type of filter to pre-sort high quality content for us, so that we may save time and energy for other activities.

Slow Information

Like slow-cooking or percolating coffee, the good stuff is worth waiting for.

Daily content usually has the lure of being fresh content, but is often deceptively shallow, as its goal is to drive increased traffic to sites that need advertising revenue.

Weekly newsletters and Twitter round-ups are where the real value is, and can be considered active consumption with focus, as you invest a small amount of time — Saturday morning with coffee, perhaps — catching up on the best material you intentionally selected.

Weekly content is so valuable because after following this approach for a while you begin to see trends and patterns, and realise that the good stuff will bubble up to the top if you give it time.

Having a focused and slow approach to your content consumption can be further improved by using a system like Pocket to organise your interests, and offload links that you want to read later, without worrying that you’ll lose them.

If you find that this works for you, push back on the daily scroll even more. Invest your new time in recent well-reviewed books and conferences, safely letting the other stuff go.

In essence, what I’m advocating for is very simple: reconsider your content consumption, and you may end up with a far greater return for your valuable time.

This was originally published on my blog.

Discussion (6)

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syntaxseed profile image
SyntaxSeed (Sherri W)

I completely quit my Facebook news feed for this reason - too much low-quality nonsense with the FOMO side-effect. I wasn't actually getting a good idea of what was new with my friends that way.

I also regularly prune who I follow on Twitter to weed out people who tweet more about random stuff than helpful info.

It helps to keep the # of readers or aggregators to a minimum. This site & the official mag of my programming language is it. Plus podcasts for when I'm doing chores.

You need to have time to be bored... to grow new ideas & creativity.

heypaulmcgrath profile image
Paul McGrath✨ Author

Fully agreed on needing time and space to grow new ideas and creativity 🙂

jrtibbetts profile image
Jason R Tibbetts

So I shouldn't read article this until and unless it shows up in the weekly top posts? 😜

heypaulmcgrath profile image
Paul McGrath✨ Author

Depends on how much free time you have! 😉

david_j_eddy profile image
David J Eddy

Excellent article Paul. You make an excellent point regarding the shallow content being used simply for advertising revenue. I, personally, have started blocking clickbait centric sites on my home network (via PiHole). I refuse to play there 'you are the product' game.

Thanks again.

heypaulmcgrath profile image
Paul McGrath✨ Author

Very kind of you, David! I have a similar PiHole setup at home, and it's wonderful.