Finally Under 20

It feels like defeat. The number has passed 200. I knew it was coming.

I should probably back up a little here. This summer we took a vacation. I had every intention of spending time on that vacation reading and writing. Specifically I was planning to spend time reading and writing about Agile in various ways. The details aren’t all that important because it didn’t happen. The details of why it didn’t happen are also fairly unimportant. It’s really the aftermath I’m looking at.

The aftermath of over 200 unread posts showing on my news reader. The aftermath of two weeks worth of unread emails from LinkedIn groups, up to 5 a day in some cases. The unread stream on Twitter and Facebook.

The numbers weren’t that large at first. They were smaller, but still pretty big. They also kept getting bigger. This brought feelings of being overwhelmed. It created a negative feedback loop. On an intellectual level I knew there were various solutions to the problem. The most obvious one, information decay.

For Twitter and Facebook information decays extremely fast. For a time I used to try to at least skim every thing that went by on each of these services. Over time my use case has changed and I now accept that I am going to skip a lot of what comes through. I have become OK with that. This was part of getting out of that negative feedback loop. It was only part of it because I had a lot of trouble letting information decay from some of the other sources. There I had to accept relevancy.

I have 224 feeds in my news reader. There is no direct translation between number of feeds and number of articles. Truth is, some feeds can pop out 20 articles in a day and some only deliver 1 on a good month. I had to stop reading things that were only of passing interest and focus on things of real interest. This is hard for me.

I have long been driven to know as much as I can. I internalized early in life that “knowledge is power.” Possibly it was from seeing it on a splash screen in Mortal Kombat. (Though apparently the correct quote was “There is no knowledge that is not power.”) For some reason it stuck, like “all your base are belong to us” stuck for some. Maybe it stuck due to the concept of “grok” from Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” which I had read the first time some years earlier. In any event, this aspect of me made it hard to let go of certain articles that seemed interesting as ones I would never read. I did it though.

Eventually the number started to come down. The number of new feeds added per month has also finally dropped below 1. When the number finally crossed below 100 I started to think about speed-reading as a way to read more in the time I had. Sometime in the week or two following the Amazon free app of the day was a speed reading trainer so I figured, why not?

I’ve taken an initial test or two for baseline and started to work the “training” part of it. I’m not sure how well it will translate into actual reading of books and on-screen content though. I will likely post an update at some point in the future.

What I do know is that my number is down below 20. (It had been falling steadily before I started to look into speed reading, so that’s not a factor.) I also know that all of those are actually links to podcasts that I am slowly finding time to listen to, and not 1 is to an article for me to read.

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