Monday, 8 June 2009

Keeping Current

I taught a few sessions of a "keeping current" workshop that I put together for work a while ago which was mostly/usually about what RSS is and how you can use it in your current awareness strategy instead of subscribing to and NOT reading dozens of print journals. But while I was teaching these sessions, a recurring theme arose.

Finding information's not the problem. We all know that "If I only knew/read/skimmed everything in this book/journal/website/etc that would really help my job/research/homework/relationship/parenting/etc." There is enough information out there -- factual or not, professional or not, valuable or not -- to satisfy every individual need for knowing more about whatever they want to know about. The key is in choosing what "stream" to follow, or float down rather. You have to be pretty selective about what you're going to be tracking regularly. There's a lot of content out there but there's also a lot of overlap. What one Corvette expert has to say on a regular basis will repeat much of what another has to say. You can't listen to them all.

Well, actually, you can almost. If you narrow down your focus enough, you can still keep pretty good tabs on all the "experts" in a field. But then you can't do anything else. You can be yet another expert on the topic of marsh hens but when someone asks you about guineafowl you'll be stumped. Of course, if you don't focus at all, you'll be reading about a million and one topics and not get enough depth to be of value in any of them.

The best path is right down the middle. Make a list of your primary interests and primary specialties and focus on them. Read some books, read some blogs, search for some current articles on each of your main topics and do so with some regularity.

And remember to shut it off once in a while. Dive into something completely new once in a while. Or turn it all off and have a break. You'll be amazed at what bubbles to the surface when the turbines are turned off or pointed in another direction.

So what do you folks do to "keep up"?


Jenn B said...

You know...I never really thought about it but the only time I really take the time to look for new sources of information to track is when I can't find it in one of my regular sources. I'll use the Sims as an example. I have three sites I generally refer to. I'll check those first. If I can't find it there then I get on google and start the search. Sometimes that search yields a few more sources which I bookmark and then...rarely come back to. LOL.

So you think it's better to generalize your interests...know a little bit about everything rather than a lot about a couple of things? I've generally thought that is best myself...but I find that when I meet up with people who have "specialized" I feel intimidated because I only know the general details and not anything in depth.

Matthew said...

So how do you find out what new cool things are going on? Things are always changing and if you want to keep on top of your game (or at least not get caught by too many fouls) you have to watch for the next new thing. Or maybe that's not true in all professions...

No, I think it's best to stay somewhere in the middle: don't focus on only one thing but don't spread yourself too thin. That's the best way to avoid that "intimidation". Know a good deal about a variety of things. It's also helpful because you can then make connections those "specialists" or generalists can't.