Two daily e-mail digests help Buchanan get right to the big stories that others in his industry will be talking about. It cuts out the scanning-and-searching time he would otherwise spend playing daily catch-up. Also, in his personal reading, he doesn't get bogged down; if a book doesn't "grab my attention in the first few pages, I put it down and move on to the next."
Patrick Kowalczyk is constantly switching gears. An account director at Michael Kaminer Public Relations, Kowalczyk's diverse client list demands that he stay on top of the latest news in multiple industries. His current clients include a photoblog company, a business author, a real-estate firm, a nonprofit that helps lesbian and gay youths, and others.
"I wake up to NPR so the news of the day filters into my head. Subconsciously, I think it helps me figure out what to look for in newspapers," Kowalczyk says. Considering the amount of reading material he scans, a head start isn't just helpful; it's mandatory. The self-described "media junkie" reads all of the New York City dailies in print and, "at the very least," USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. But his strategy hinges on reading just enough. "I scan the headlines and then read the first three or four graphs [of each story] to decide [whether I need to read it]," he says.
Though he still prefers print editions for his daily newspaper fix, Kowalczyk tracks other news sources through his personal blog. "I have links to all the [other blogs] I go to for information," he says. "That's how I get my daily feed." Whenever he has a few minutes, he simply goes down the list of those links from his website and reads what he finds. Kowalczyk sticks with the same blogs he's been reading for years, including Romenesko (www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=45), which serves up a hearty dose of media-industry news, and Washington Monthly's Political Animal (www.washingtonmonthly.com).
How does he make time for all this reading? He squeezes it into spare moments throughout the day - a morning break, lunch, after work, and so on. "I need to stay plugged in," he says.
The Info Scout
When your job has anything to do with technology, what's new is beyond important - it's your work's lifeblood. "The software industry is full of fads," says Nanette Brown, director of architecture and quality management for Pitney Bowes. You find information about a "new approach, and you have to read through to find what's valid."
Though Brown enjoys a good Google session for the "serendipitous things that can happen when you start out on a web search," she keeps random browsing to a minimum. To help clear out the clutter, she subscribes to e-mail digests, like those from IT consultants Cutter Consortium, which deliver a lot of news in easy-to-handle chunks. She takes business magazines home to read in the evening. And when it comes to finding the latest business books, she'll often start her search with the reader reviews on Amazon.com. Once she has the latest read in hand, she "has a Puritan work ethic of starting out on page one … and then skipping around," once she's determined the central themes of the book.