Unearthing Nuggets From The Information Mountain

Staying abreast efficiently.

Posted Sep 24, 2018

LewisLBonar, CC 4.0
Source: LewisLBonar, CC 4.0

Every once in a while, I long for the 15th century—Before the printing press, one could hope to stay somewhat abreast of the best ideas. Of course, usually, I’m grateful for today’s ready availability of so much information. But it can be overwhelming, so here’s how I try to efficiently unearth  nuggets from our information mountain.

My computer’s start page

Most people use Google as their start page. That's a waste of your computer's real estate. Instead, have the gadget for Google's search box on your screen's toolbar. You can get it HERE.

Then choose a more helpful start page. Mine is ighome.com, where I can choose any of dozens of gadgets to appear on my homepage, for example, news headlines from the New York Times, GoogleNews, Wall Street Journal, and Fox. In seconds, I can scan the headlines and, if I deem it worth my time, click through to an article.

Ighome also allows me to choose to get headlines on health, business, stock prices, and the weather in my zip code. I also chose the "Quotes of the Day" gadget, which every day lists five smart statements made by luminaries.

This brings me to a key to efficient information mining: ever asking myself, “Is this a good use of my time?” There’s so much tempting information out there that unless I'm ever pulling on ropes of restraint, my days could be swallowed up by the peripheral.

Savvy Googling

Probably my most efficient way to mine the information mountain is just-in-time Google-searching. Whenever I want to know something, my first instinct is “Google it.” Of course, choosing the right search term is crucial but explaining how to do that is complex and thus well beyond the scope of this article. But a rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “What is the most specific search term that still has a good chance of yielding one or two on-target results?” One example: {CBT efficacy depression “older adults”}. Note that I put the words “older adults” in quotes so Google recognizes that I’m searching for the phrase "older adults," not "older" and "adults." The latter pair would include search results on antiques and on Millennials.

Again, key is to be very discriminating: When you get a page of search results, be picky: Read the two-line descriptions of the top three results (Google does a great job of curation, placing the likely most useful links at the top), and decide whether you should click through or try a different search term.

I usually prefer text over video if it’s a talking-head video—it's faster. If I need to see the visual, I’ll click on GoogleSearch’s Videos tab and then usually choose the shortest on-target video that’s among the top few search results.

Books

In the how-to genre, I generally prefer articles to books, again more time-effective. Article writers are forced to limit themselves to their best ideas while book authors have plenty room to pad. When I might want more depth than an article can provide, I search Amazon. There, when I find a title that’s on-target. I scan the book's top reader reviews (those voted most useful by other readers), which usually includes the book’s major points. If I want more, I use Amazon’s “Look Inside This Book” feature, which lets me see the table of contents and to click to a good chunk of each chapter. I usually turn to the concluding/summary chapter and if that doesn’t sate me, I click on the chapter that most intrigues me and scan it. After that, if I want to read much more of the book, I’ll order it with Amazon Prime, so it’s at my home in two days, free shipping. (The library is a hassle. It too often doesn't have the book available and if does, I’d have to traipse to the library to get it and return it, often with an overdue fine.)

I do use the library's Libby app to download mp3s of audiobooks to my phone and car stereo so I can listen while driving or walking. Not only does that make good use of the dead time, it distracts me from the ever more choking traffic.

The takeaway

Knowledge is not just power; it’s pleasure. But it’s less pleasant when we’re overwhelmed by the information mountain's magnitude. Hopefully, these tips will yield you more power and pleasure.