Post by Patricia Hewitt, contributing Women On Business writer
Throughout my career, I’ve found one of the most challenging aspects of my working life has been keeping abreast of thought leadership. This dilemma has always been particularly troublesome to someone like me, who is a natural student. I am endlessly interested and curious about what is happening in the world around me and find great pleasure in exploring alternative ideas and concepts.
The great conundrum of an information-soaked age is that we often find ourselves unable to find time to do more than just breath in a sound bite or glance through an article before we’re off to our next task. Yet there has never been a better time in the history of communication to access all manner of academic and professional thinking than right now. And so, I thought a fitting last post for 2008 (since I won’t be back until after the new year) would be to share with you some of the ways I’ve found to keep myself abreast of what’s happening in the world around me. As an aside, let me say that I offer no formal or paid endorsement of any of the sites or products I’m going to mention; just my personal experience and opinion.
In my practice, I conduct quite a bit of market research over the Internet. When I first started doing this professionally, I found myself awash and drowning in information. Spending way too much time trying to organize and keep track of data I needed or sites and information I wanted to return to, kept me on the hunt for a better way. For me, a better way is simple, simple, easy, easy and I found what I was looking for in Google Notebook. This little application, free from Google, allows one to setup online notebooks. Once inside a web page that contains the information you need or want to keep track of, simple right click and “Note this (Google Notebook)” appears in your menu and you can save the page to a notebook. That’s not all because you can also add comments and tags to the page, move it from notebook to notebook as well as print, export, and share your notebooks. Find this great idea on Google; just search “Google Notebook” or follow the link above.
I’ll share with you another of my pet peeves, which is not being able to read everything I’m interested in. Saying I am an avid reader doesn’t even come close and anyone who knows me also knows that I have books, magazines, and newspapers strung out all over the place. I am never without something to read. But, it’s not always convenient to actually read something – such as when you’re driving a car. Not that that stops some people, but I do consider myself of average intelligence so I don’t drive with the newspaper flung over my steering wheel (I saw that once – true story.).
I know you’re thinking – audio books, what’s new about that? But, you’d be wrong. Actually this year I’ve discovered something even better – iTunes U. Short for iTunes University, it’s an area in iTunes that offers podcasts of lectures, articles, and interviews across a wide range of topics including business, economics, psychology, sciences, and the arts. Most of the podcasts are free and many of them offer subscriptions. Once you’ve downloaded them, you can listen to them on your iPod or burn them onto a cd and play them in your car. Another similar site is Learn Out Loud. This site offers both free and for fee podcasts from current writers and thinkers from various disciplines. Check it out at www.learnoutloud.com. I’m sure my readers have other sites like this, so feel free to share them in our Comments section.
Ok, so now you have all this information better organized, but it’s still gathering dust. That brings us to the third leg in the stool, which is prioritizing self-education. I’ve always found that to be simple, simple, but not so easy, easy. The simple part done – you have the information. To make the not so easy part work, you have to commit to making it a habit. Experts say it takes about three months to create a habitual behavior. This means for three months you’ll need to put an appointment with yourself on your schedule in the same spot each week or even each day, to learn something new. I’ve found the best way to do this is selecting a time when I am physically active, but mentally on hold. For example, during a walk or anytime I know I’ll have a wait period or driving my car.
If your 2009 resolutions include creating a better you, give yourself the gift of new knowledge and you’ll be amazed at what’s behind the doors you open. My best wishes to all for a peaceful holiday season and a prosperous new year.