“Flat Surface Disease” is an incredibly common ailment. It essentially happens when we have lots of stuff that needs attention, but we don’t want to put it away because we know we’ll forget about it.
While the full STEP Command Central we teach here at LearnDoBecome helps you organize everything in your life, the Read/Review system is a great way to start, and today we’re going to dive into some of the nitty-gritty details. 🙂
I first learned about the Read/Review file when I read Getting Things Done® by David Allen, and I thought it was a BRILLIANT idea.
The first way I applied it was to simply get a basket and fill it with magazines, brochures, catalogs, grocery ads, newspapers, etc. It worked really well, and we still have one in our kitchen.
Here are a few tips for maintaining it well:
- Only put things into the Read/Review basket that don’t require action. This isn’t “another place” to look for things that have to be done.
- To keep it from overflowing, clean it out once a week…recycle those outdated newspapers, magazines, etc. Even if you think, “I might want to read these,” you most likely won’t. Unsubscribe from anything that consistently is just taking up space, and use the recycle bin generously.
- Keep the basket/file where you’ll actually use it or refer to it. Maybe you want it by a favorite chair or something? We keep ours in the kitchen because it’s fun to flip through magazines, etc. sometimes while we’re eating or waiting for something to come out of the oven.
We did have a member of our community ask, “What if I don’t want a Read/Review basket at all?” That’s definitely a good question. If you don’t think you’ll use it, or you don’t want “one more place” to have to clean up each week, you can certainly opt out of this, but if that’s the case, here’s what I would recommend:
- Unsubscribe from all your paper magazines, catalogs, etc. or switch them to digital versions.
- Follow the two-minute rule when you check the mail. If you receive a grocery ad, catalog for a store you like, etc., look through each one for two minutes or less, note anything you want to purchase onto your Next Actions List, grocery list, Someday list, etc. and then put those items immediately into the recycle bin.
Your Digital System
A lot of people also have digital files to read and review. These can include PDFs they’ve downloaded, online course content that doesn’t have a deadline, friends’ family newsletters, or email updates from businesses you follow.
Obviously, you’ll want to make your system work for you, but this is what I do with my digital read/review resources:
- PDFs: Let’s say I download a Spanish lesson from my Wondrium app, get a business ebook from my favorite marketing expert, or access a PDF of recipes and workouts from my favorite YouTube exercise instructor. I first put them into Evernote (my favorite digital filing cabinet!), and I make sure that the titles include all the keywords I could possibly search, if I needed to locate it within a moment’s notice. These don’t have “deadlines,” so I could stop there, but if I want to be sure to see it, review it, consume the information, I put a reminder on my “Next Actions List” in the “Read/Education” context I created, or I add a calendar trigger on a day in the future to remind me to check it out. (Advanced user tip: Evernote/most digital file managers let you create a unique link for each note, so you can copy that link and add it into your calendar reminder. That way, when it comes up, one click takes you directly to that PDF.)
- Online/Optional Course Content: Inside our Steps to Everyday Productivity program, we suggest that you create a Routines List that holds your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual routines. These can be created using paper, or they can be built digitally. I personally put mine inside my Asana app (the free version is great!), and I have a daily routine called “Self-Education.” Inside that routine, I add sub-tasks that include a prioritized list of any online courses I am interested in completing. Clicking into the sub-tasks opens a “description” box, where I include the login details (and hints for my passwords, if needed). That way, I don’t feel stressed about completing the courses, but as long as I have lifetime access, I know I can pop into my daily routine from my phone or computer, select the course I want to explore, log in right away, and listen to an audio, video, etc.–or review a PDF. This is WAY more productive than scrolling social media, and I think it’s fun. (This is honestly the way I complete so many online courses without feeling like it’s a big deal….)
- Email Updates from Friends or Businesses: If you haven’t yet tried our “Emails to Zero” training, it’s super fun (link is at the bottom!), and one of the key points of the training is to have an @ImmediateAction folder inside your email to hold any emails that you want to read, take action on by the end of the week. As emails come into your inbox, if they can be handled in two minutes or less, you handle them, but for those that need 5-10 minutes or so (like a newsletter/PDF you want to read this week), you move them to @ImmediateAction, and then you whittle that down throughout the week, with some solid time devoted to clearing it before the week ends. (Advanced user tip: I use Gmail’s “Multiple Inboxes” so that my general inbox is at the top and my @ImmediateAction emails are right below that–still on the home screen, when I’m accessing my email on the computer. Otherwise, it’s a simple click into my other folders, if I’m accessing my email from my phone.) Another favorite resource is Unroll.Me, which sends me a “roll-up” email every day with all my subscriptions in one place. It takes moments to skim, and then I know I can access anything interesting from the auto-generated, out-of-my-inbox folder it creates. The Unroll.Me app is fantastic, in my opinion, so I generally only access their service from my phone.
This is the last category we’ll cover today. 🙂 I LOVE books. They are like oxygen to me, and reading is one of my favorite pastimes. (I’ll link to two podcasts at the bottom of this post that share how to make time to read, if you’re interested… We also have a list of our favorite books that I’ll include, as well!)
Some books are given to me or purchased, and some are from the library, where I go and get a huge basket full each month. 🙂
I personally keep these on a shelf in my closet or in the library basket on the floor of my closet, and then I write the key books I want to read on my Next Actions List (in the Education section). Then throughout each day/week, when I am in the mood to read (in the bathtub, out on the porch, on the couch at night when we’re finishing up our day, etc.), I just grab a book that looks interesting to me!
These are all relatively simple ideas, and some of them may not work perfectly for you, but hopefully you’ll feel excited about bringing new resources into your life, reading great books, and learning to improve your life in the ways that matter most to you!
Steps to Everyday Productivity Our signature program here at LearnDoBecome will help you stop drowning in piles of clutter and step into a life of calm.
Emails to Zero Would you like to have an email inbox that feels clear, simple, and happy–so you can do your work and communicate with those you love without stress? Sign up for this free training!