Culture & Competency

Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload (Mark Hurst)

During my talk with Rajesh Setty last month re iPolipo he was gracious enough to recommend a book I should read. I duly added it to my Amazon list (I love buying books and sometimes I get to read them) and then about a week ago it arrived: Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload by Mark Hurst (see also and Mark’s business web site).

There’s finally a solution for information overload. Bit Literacy, the new book by Mark Hurst, describes how to manage e-mail, todos, photos, a media diet, and other sources of stress for people today. Bit Literacy is written for normal, non-techie users, and it doesn’t require any special software or computer skills. Read the book and you’ll start working more productively, so as to live a fuller life outside of work.

In a word: It delivers.
For a next action: You absolutely have to buy it. Now. Right now. Before reading any further. I know I don’t normally say that, but this book should be required reading of everybody who ever uses / touches a computer at any time.

Here are the things I particularly liked:

  • Mark outlines the problem (bit / information overload), advocates a solution (“letting the bits go”), and then gives some very concrete recommendations on how to achieve “bit literacy”. I didn’t agree with all of them, and found some of the recommendations uncomfortable for me, but (a) perhaps Mark’s way is better, and (b) there are many, many valid ideas that I agreed with immediately. He devotes a chapter on how to use email as a “bit literate” user, and also how to manage a to do list in a “bit literate” way.
  • Mark’s got some very specific recommendations for software to use to make computer time much more productive. I’ve already switched to TextWrangler for editing text (p.111) and Typinator as my “bit lever” (p.144). I can’t believe I’ve lived my life without these tools!
  • Although Mark provides a generic framework for implementation on either Windows or Mac, he outlines the reasons why he believes the Mac is a better platform (wow, I like him more already). But more than that, he includes a list of add-on software that translates the Mac into a “bit literate capable” platform. Most I hadn’t heard of, but man they are brilliant.
  • Reading the book gave me the kick in the behind that I needed to sort out the mess that was my RSS subscriptions list. It had grown to an unmanageable 650 or so subscriptions, and I never got it down to zero. So last night I went through the whole list, removed the deadwood, and drastically trimmed my subscription count to 190 or so. And … more than that … I made it easy to review them consistently, by adding each to one of seven group folders in NetNewsWire: a folder I need to clear every day (yes, Eric, you’re in that one), and then a Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday / Saturday folder. The implication is that I only have to clear two folders a day … and will get through all of my subscriptions every week.

There’s more … lots more … but you’ll have to buy the book to learn it. And again, I highly recommend it. I will be revisiting this book frequently in the future for a “bit literacy tune up”.

Thanks Mark. And thanks Raj! You’ve both changed my life a little bit in the last 48 hours …

Categories: Culture & Competency