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Simple triage to keep sane while scanning

TriageIf you work at anticipating and understanding the future, you are in a permanent, 24/7, 365 day-a-year environmental scan. It's what you do, on the job or off. 

But that means endless opportunity to distract yourself, if you are doing a good, broad scan of lots of sources of information. That kind of scan, done right, means you are not sure what you are going to find as you work–you have to be "all over the map". It's what you're supposed to do..

So you have a problem: you find it hard to focus the scanning on your current needs and work–it's too open and exploratory. You can easily get lost, or use up time exploring, unsure if you should be doing that.

Don't try to narrow what you look at, you need the power and value of the view broad. But you also need a bring some discipline to your scanning efforts. 

Here is a triage approach you can use. Consider three categories of information, and how to handle them:

1. Short and of immediate use — things related to your current work. Read, process, share, etc. right now. Get the value from these sources as you discover them.

2. Park for later today or sometime soon, when you are not working on this particular task — things of near-at-hand use, such as on a different task or project than the one you are doing now. You might leave these on your bookmark bar.

3. Long read, extended viewing, etc. for my leisure time or reading time — things that you can tell are good to know, are informative or educational, but are more speculatively-linked to your work. Save links to these, download, print, bookmark, etc. There are lots of ways to do this, and you can find one that fits you. I use the Instapaper web app. I just click on "Read Later" and then go to my Instapaper collection, download them to an e-reader, and read them when I have time.

Your version of this approach can make a different to your productivity, and perhaps your sanity, as you work to be effective at scanning.

Image: Brian Gratwicke, via Flickr, creative commons attribution license

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