How do you take your information? A spot of cream? A lump of sugar? Sometimes those additions might make it easier to swallow but still do nothing for comprehension… Consider this: In fact, fairly recently, market news reported the best close since 2007… Then reported lower-than-hoped-for hiring in private sector jobs… What? It also reported bad news from Europe’s continuing austerity crises and from Detroit’s turnaround plans. Where did the “best close since 2007” come from then? And how does this information contribute to your own business strategy?

You already know your time is in high demand. Your efforts are better spent keeping abreast of your own “reality” and “news” and making sure that you are adjusting the sails of your business strategies and plans to accommodate the changes.

Proactively manage your information consumption. Staying current on innovations and competitor activity is important, to be sure. Read the applicable industry publications or business articles, but keep in mind that even the front page of The Wall Street Journal might not necessarily reflect your world of small business needs. Further, some business journals are too academic in focus. Magazines produced by professional membership associations (such as those people by realtors for example), however, might be worthwhile. In fact, you should find the publications of a great membership are filled with relevant material, new ideas, and things to watch out for – good and bad.

Mainstream media and news can be so confusing and stressful that I enthusiastically support the idea of turning it off. You can always get a quick read on the internet, so no need to listen to the news in the car, on CNN, and evening TV. If you have a favorite source, stick with it, but I’d suggest that you avoid more than a half hour of broadcast news per day. Besides, it’s repetitive and often days old…

Instead, invest your time discovering websites and blogs that can inform your business strategy and expose you to new ideas. Websites like the community, the Harvard Business Journal (a personal favorite),female business owners support, or local community support like that in San Francisco can be valuable to you, but don’t be a slave to these tools. Each has elements you can use, but searching, reading, and evaluating takes time that you must wisely budget.

Of course, you must manage your time, as well as the type and source of your information consumption. Calendar it. Clock a start and end time. I must admit I have a weakness when it comes to keeping myself in line, but if I walk away with an actionable result, then I have passed the test of value. Determine a value metric for your own outside reading, surfing, and listening. If you don’t walk away with some notes, a phone call to make, a contact to make, or a product to look into, perhaps you have wasted your time.


By Steven Schlagel