How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts and the literary world, to hear their answers. This is drawn from a conversation with David Allen, author of the New York Times bestseller Getting Things Done and founder of David Allen Co.
I have one of the more non-traditional schedules so the only thing I do regularly is wake up. And even that's questionable. But the first thing I typically do is open my iPad to The New York Times, read an article or two on the front page and then check out the Dining & Wine or Business Day section.
During the day, I get at least a book per week to endorse which piles up to the point where I really just have to triage the process. But generally, I don't do much reading during the day. The vast part of my job is consulting businesses and organizations on productivity. I do a lot of networking and managing of client relationships and, of course, being the business's chief evangelist.
For magazines, I just love The Atlantic, and I'm not just saying that. I get the print edition and the digital version on my iPad and I often read each issue cover to cover. I also love The Week in print because of its expansive and in-depth take on the week's events. Every so often I'll get through The Economist but that's usually only when I'm in travel mode. I don't read GQ often but every once and a while it's absolutely wonderful. I love the writing in it. I also read Wired UK, which I used to write a column for. It's still Condé Nast but it's quite a bit different from Wired US. Their vision was to create a compilation of The Atlantic, The Economist and Financial Times. It's a more international perspective with London just being much more of a global city. In terms of media personalities, I would love to hang out with Terry Gross. I love her interview style. I also love Jim Fallows and his writing and his thinking. Those are my media heroes. Also, Arianna Huffington is a good friend and an excruciatingly smart lady.
I don't spend much time on social media. I've got a big Twitter following because it fits my zen mind and how I share things. I like the limited format and limited expectation. It gives me an opportunity to express something out there. After a day where I do some intense coaching or a presentation or seminar, if I understand something more deeply about my own work or material I'll go to Twitter to cement the idea. It's a very self-centered, developmental process in terms of my own thinking and awareness.
Productivity is often a big issue for writers. Being able to block out the world so you can focus on what you're writing about is crucial. "How do I get space to think?" It turns out, anecdotally, that's very situational to the person. Some people need to be in a specific space, others need to be working at a specific time. If you do this regularly, you sit down and you get into a frame of mind. Where's that place? Where's that magic spot? It's also important that the rest of your life is on cruise control so you're not distracted. It's about creating more cognitive space. If you take John Tierney's work, Willpower, decision fatigue is an important factor. In the process of writing, you're constantly making decisions and that's why writers often procrastinate. They don't want to decide. I think I heard P.J. O'Rourke say "writing is hard because you actually have to think." A lot of times it's about finding the best time and the best physical space to work and exercising that decision-making muscle.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.