Join Lauren Bacon for an in-depth discussion in this video Keep up with new tech, part of Web Career Clinic.
- [Voiceover] Hi, I'm Lauren Bacon, and welcome to his week's edition of the Web Career Clinic, where I'll explore how to build a career you love making good stuff on the web. It's a challenge in any industry, but when you work on the web, staying current with new technology is a must. But how do you fit learning into your daily schedule when you probably have a million other things you need to do on any given day? Here are six tips for following the news without drowning in a sea of information.
First, set your priorities. There is more content being created every day than you can possibly keep up with, so stick to your niche. And in my experience, many of us have a tendency to want to read everything that seems interesting, which can quickly become overwhelming. If you want to stay focused and use your learning time effectively, the single best question you can ask yourself is: What do I want to be amazing at? Think about this with a long-ish time horizon.
A year from now, for example, what do you want to be able to say you're amazing at? Maybe you want to be amazing at coding web apps. Maybe you want to create amazing user experiences around health and well-being. Maybe you want to be the best Photoshop wizard around. Make a list of all the stuff that comes to mind, and narrow it down to just one thing. If you tend to be a generalist, this will help you zoom in on what matters most. Once you've answered this question, you'll have a much better sense of where to focus your time.
Second, follow smart curators. If you subscribe to everything, you get overwhelmed quickly. Subscribe to a few newsletters and online magazines and follow a few thought leaders on social networks, and let that be enough. If you like to use email to keep on top of news, use a tool like unroll.me to group all your subscriptions together. I've put together a blog post with some of my favorite sources for web-dev news, which you can find at my website, laurenbacon.com.
Your go-to sources might be wildly different than mine depending on your career goals. Third, limit your time. Set a time limit on how much you can spend each day. I know, everybody says to do this, but how do you actually make it work? Well, unroll.me, which I mentioned a minute ago helps a lot, but you can also set specific times of day to check the headlines. Pay attention to when your energy and focus tend to dip, and make the most of those times of day by using them to scroll through the news.
Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, and stop as soon as your time's up. Or you might choose instead to dedicate a longer period of time once or twice a week for learning. Do whatever suits your schedule and preferences. The best thing you can do for your focus is to stop letting news pop up when you're trying to focus on other things. Research tells us it takes about 20 minutes for you to regain focus after an interruption. So if you've got emails popping into your inbox at random times during the day, and email notifications turned on, you're setting yourself up for constant distraction and poor productivity.
Choose your learning times deliberately and stay focused. Fourth, trust your gut. If following someone is stressing you out, unfollow them, and if your news feeds feel overwhelming, take some time to go through the people you follow, and for each person ask yourself: Do I feel inspired, energized, or better informed after reading this person's posts? If the answer is "no," unfollow them or hide them from your feed. Fifth, apply the learning.
It's more important to do the work than to read about it. For everything that you read or watch, you should be looking for places to apply your learning. How can you do that? Take a moment after reading an article or at the end of your daily news break to jot down what you learned, and how you could apply what you learned to the projects you're working on right now. It's that simple. Learning without application won't make you amazing at what you do. Applying your learning consistently, that will make you amazing.
Sixth, accept that you can't know everything. Don't be afraid to admit what you don't know. Nobody is an expert on everything, and people will trust you more if you admit to having gaps in your knowledge. That's it for this week's Web Career Clinic. Tune in next time as I explore another topic for web professionals. If you have questions about your web career, hit me up on Twitter at @laurenbacon, using the hashtag #ProWebClinic. See you next week!
Tune in every Wednesday for a weekly "small dose" of advice, an explanation, or an interview with a web veteran. Lauren Bacon has mentored and coached many web professionals as they were starting out and loves sharing all that she's learned from her 15-year career as a designer, front-end developer, and agency principal.