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Blog: The Language Of Organizing
The Power of Skim

Are you one of those people who has piles and piles of stuff you say you're going to read? In some cases, the accumulation becomes so overwhelming it takes over flat surfaces near and far, in every corner of the office and home.

Don't be buried in potential reading material. Embrace the "Power of Skim."

Wikipedia defines skimming as "a high speed reading process [that] involves visually searching the sentences of a page for clues to meaning." The page goes on to assert that "skimming is mainly used when researching and getting an overall idea of the text." Thus, skimming is perfect for most of the readable material that enters your life – you're not going to be tested on this stuff. Admit it: you're hanging onto it because it "might be interesting" or you're unsure whether there's "something in there you could use/have to act on/need to know" etc.

The problem with this "someday maybe I might" mentality is that with no deadline, you could be buried in the possibilities before ever actually reading anything. Meanwhile, you'll be laden with guilt every time you look at the ominous, ever-growing pile. Skimming is the answer.

Don't pile to read "later." Seize the moment: grab that item and briefly skim the headlines and topic sentences of each paragraph. Skim with the intent of finding the action: what, if anything, do you have to do next? How will you use this information? If there is no action, you are free to Skim and Pitch – just toss the item merrily into the recycling bin and set yourself free. No further action required.

If, however, when skimming you clearly identify further action on your part, you need to Skim and Schedule – make a note what action is required, look for a time on your calendar, and schedule that action. Then you can either toss the thing you read, or, if you will need it to complete the action you've scheduled, file it until the scheduled time comes.

The key to skimming is to be on the lookout for the next action. "Read" is too vague an action. I challenge you to know why you read things: what is going to change, how are you going to act, what will you do differently after having read? If there is no payoff, no return on the investment, no reason to read, pitch away!

And keep track. I'd love to know your "pitch score" – the number of (brown paper grocery) bags full of "reading material" you can pitch when you apply the "Power of Skim" to that daunting pile you've been avoiding. Let me know how it goes!

posted on: 3/16/2008 3:00:00 PM by Porter Knight
category: General organizing Tips

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The Language Of Organizing

by Porter Knight

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About Porter:

Yes, I love organizing. And I love teaching others how to adopt the skills necessary to become more organized. But you know why I organize? Because what I really love to do is ride horses, hike, practice yoga, swim, read, dance, and spend time with my family (2 boys, husband and dog). Being organized allows me to balance all the aspects of my life so I can enjoy life fully. Since 1996 I have used vivid descriptions of organizing solutions to help make productivity and balance more achievable for thousands of individuals. Jump on board!

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