4 Ways to Be a More Informed Professional (Even if You Don't Have Time)
Regardless of what industry you work in, being well-informed is typically a requirement if you want to move up the career ladder and be successful. Knowing more about your industry and the world in general helps you not only put your work in context, but also keep up around the office (you don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t know about a major world event!).
But despite the infinite amount of information available at our fingertips, it seems like even figuring out how and where to get your news is an overwhelming process. What makes some sources better than others? How much news should you read, and how much should you skim? And how much time should you spend taking in all of this information—when all of us are already short on time?
If you’re a busy professional who doesn’t have several hours to spend on news every day, there are absolutely ways to become much more informed without having to do a ton of work. Check out these four tips.
1. Subscribe to One (Just One) Email Newsletter
I’ve written quite a bit about email newsletters in the past (I admitted to reading 10 email newsletters a day here), and I still believe they’re one of the best ways to get yourself reading news and staying updated with broader trends in your industry and in the world at large.
As I’ve mentioned before, though, subscribing to 30 different email newsletters all at once won’t make you the world’s smartest human; in my experience, doing so makes you more likely to send them all straight the trash bin.
Instead, start by subscribing to just one email newsletter. Spend several weeks getting acquainted with the messages, clicking on links, and reading the material provided.
Not sure where to find the most useful email newsletters? I recommend asking your friends as well as your co-workers. While your friends might have better ideas for general interest newsletters, one of your colleagues might have the scoop on an awesome industry email.
If you’re trying to figure out if a newsletter has value, something to consider is how much time to spend interacting with that email: If you find yourself sending it straight to the trash bin every day, it’s obviously not doing much for your knowledge base.
2. Aggregate Your News
One of the most annoying things about the internet being so vast is that if you really want to get a diverse “information diet,” you typically have to go to several different websites and scroll around to find what you’re looking for.
But there’s an easier way to find news that both cuts down on your time and cuts through all the crap: using a news aggregator like Feedly, Pulse, or Google News. These apps allow you to select which websites you want to receive news from and see a roundup of their top stories, all on one screen. Even better: A lot of them have pretty and easy-to-use interfaces, making your news surfing experience more enjoyable.
A word of advice: Aggregators can be incredibly overwhelming if you add too much too quickly. A great way to start is with a total of five sources: Three general news sources (so you’re getting a diverse group of opinions) and two industry-specific sources (for a little variety). Spend a few weeks getting used to this simple feed before you start adding more.
3. Find a News Buddy
One of the great things about being informed? You can show off how current events-savvy you are by talking to other people about what you’ve read or listened to. In my experience, finding someone to talk news with (whether it’s world news or industry news) makes the experience of staying informed a whole lot more enriching.
The easiest way to find someone to talk to? Head to social media. I’ve found many news buddies through Twitter, and I also have friends who’ve joined groups on Facebook that spread and discuss news. If you want to find a news buddy in person, take note of who refers to industry news during meetings or mentions news topics on the side. Just being a little more alert can make all the difference.
Plus, a side bonus: Being an informed individual makes for a much easier time at networking events and even just your average friend gathering. You never know when you’ll gain brownie points for dropping some knowledge or impress someone you really look up to because of something you know.
4. Put Time in Your Schedule
What takes less time to do than sitting in a meeting, answering emails, or completing that ridiculously draining investor report? Spending 15 minutes reading the news every morning.
One of the biggest (and most obvious) complaints from professionals when it comes to why they aren’t more informed is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. However, reading the news doesn’t have to be a gigantic undertaking. Taking even 10 minutes to skim an email newsletter or read through a couple of stories on your favorite one or two news sources can make all the difference. Don’t have time to sit down and read? Listen to a podcast or a news source (like NPR) while you’re getting ready in the morning or making your morning or evening commute.
And who knows? Something you read could spark a moment of creativity or inspiration during your workday.
Becoming better informed doesn’t mean you have to sit reading every single page of the newspaper every morning. With these simple four tips, you’ll be the information envy of the office in no time.
Lily is a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect, the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her writing with The Muse, she also serves as an editor at HelloFlo and Her Campus. Recently, she was named one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women for her work helping underserved youth get into college. You can follow Lily on Twitter.More from this Author