Read Less, Do More, Learn Deeply

Too. Many. Tabs. 

Every morning I start up my machine, open my browser, and weep at all the must-read articles I'll have to get through. You know this feeling.

😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😥😰

😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😢😭😪😥😰😓😫😥😰

But I won't. I can't.

You can't. You shouldn't.

This is no way for the modern human to start a day. This mental overwhelm of obligatory reading, and regret for all those seemingly innocent clicks made the day before.

Look at those tabs. You know the ones. The little bastards tempting you with their favicons. And you know even if you read them all, you will not be more proficient, better paid, or better looking. So why indulge?

Now, I also believe reading is essential for designer success. Designers — particularly experience designers, information architects, and design strategists — need to constantly grow and expand. Smarts and acumen are our greatest assets. Consuming written content coupled with hands-on experience are our means to get there.

But with the massive amounts of content we're exposed to, and more designers actively writing each day, we need a super filter. There's a lot of good stuff, and a lot of useless stuff.

Your brain is a temple. Only let in the stuff that will get you higher. 

Here's a few points to consider as you (and me) renegotiate your (and our) relationship with the written word and the barrage of online content.

  • Pareto it - Evaluate your content consumption based on the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule). What 20% of the articles and books you read (i.e. causes) brings you 80% of your advancement and expertise as a designer (i.e. effects).
  • Find your 'Mentors' - Find 2-3 authors/design leaders that you resonate with, or challenge you, and prioritize their books and blogs. Understand their approaches, and apply them to your work.
  • Set your Intention - Set a monthly or quarterly topic that you will focus on exclusively. Read only books and articles that relate to this topic directly for that time period. No exceptions.
  • Define your T - Be intentional about your area of deep expertise as a way to reach your full potential and bring clear value to your organization and team.
  • Set Goals - How does each piece of content you consume tie to your goals as a designer? Brain power is limited — everything you choose to put in it should produce benefit to you.
  • Be a Builder - We all consume, but we should live our professional lives as builders first, consumers second. Contribute to discourse, bring new ideas and processes, help other designers succeed, etc.

The list goes on. 

This is something I still struggle with daily. Just opened 6 articles this morning that I probably won't read.

I'd love to hear how you approach this challenge. If you've got some tips, leave them in the comments below.

Until next time!