5 productivity hacks to boost your self-learning skills

5 productivity hacks to help you consume more quality content in less time

Modern professionals are expected to spend time growing their knowledge-base and professional skills through self-learning.

It’s a competitive edge that helps both the employees and the organizations they work for.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the capacity to deal with the wealth of content that exists today, not to mention the time required to read it all. And so, this important task is often getting neglected.

I suffer from this problem too, but with the help of a few powerful productivity tools and some habits, I managed to create a sustainable self-learning framework that helps me read and learn new things every day.

Here are 5 productivity hacks that help me consume quality content faster and more efficiently:

1. Listen to professional podcasts and build a knowledge base with saved snippets

Listening to podcasts allows me to enrich my professional knowledge and even save important takeaways without having to spend time in front of a computer.
I do it while I’m at the gym with the help of Procast:


I’m so happy I discovered this app. While it might not be the most popular podcast app in the App Store, it’s certainly built for listening to professional podcasts and gaining knowledge.
Procast has an amazing design (they actually have a well-designed dark mode, which is pretty hard to find these days).

It’s extremely easy to use, and easy to manage your subscriptions with: new episodes land in the inbox section and you can never get lost, even if you have multiple subscriptions and tons of new episodes to listen to.

But, what makes Procast so great is the ability to create snippets, and so, whenever there’s something you want to save for later or just keep as part of your knowledge building process - you can save it as a snippet.

I’m listening to podcasts on startups, productivity, management, and product development while I’m at the gym, and whenever I really like an idea, I pause my workout for a few seconds, roll back the podcast for a few seconds and save that section.

Download Procast.

2. Don’t let your favorite email newsletters overflow your inbox

I hate it when my inbox fills up with distracting newsletters, that’s why I’ve created a special Gmail account just for spam, trash, and other subscriptions.
Whenever I’m in the mood, I enter this email account from a dedicated email app and start reading my favorite newsletters without getting distracted by real work emails.


Stopp is like a podcast app for email newsletters. It allows you to easily discover and subscribe to tons of leading newsletters and get them all in a dedicated app, which is connected to a designated email account.

Stoop is a relatively new app, and even though the idea is great, the app design requires some more polish, as the UI is still quite basic. It does, however, deliver the value many busy people would appreciate: it lets you discover and read all of your email newsletters in one place.

The alternative for Stoop is to simply create a new email account to be used when subscribing to email newsletters and install a dedicated email app (there are plenty in the App Stores) just for this account which will basically turn it into a newsletter reader. As long as you don’t get to see these emails arriving at your inbox during the working hours - both options are great.

Download Stoop.
And speaking of newsletters, here one you simply must subscribe to: the mobile spoon.

3. Skim through technology news to stay ahead of the curve 

Reading so many technology blogs is hard, but with the right app, it’s actually possible to skim through a lot of content and stay ahead of the curve.
I use Feedly to quickly go over the topics the interest me and deep dive into a few articles each day.


Once upon a time, there was this simple technology called RSS where publishers could create content (in a certain format), and readers could easily subscribe to this content, get updates automatically whenever something new is published, and read it using RSS Readers.
With RSS, you didn’t have to be a known publisher to promote your content and have loyal reader-base.

It worked great, used by companies, writers, bloggers, until Google came in with Google Reader (which was so good it killed all other readers), and then decided to terminate it, basically ending the era of RSS.

Luckily for us, Feedly was there to save RSS. It allowed importing Google’s subscriptions and so RSS fans managed a way to keep using this technology.

Feedly is probably the best RSS reader ever created: it’s certainly the fastest, and most convenient. It supports all the different formats, has a great discovery functionality. It’s perfect.
But, and there is a “but”; at a certain point, the typical feed becomes so long you can’t catch up. It’s that content overflow again.

I had hundreds of websites and blogs in my Feedly account, it was so messy I couldn’t handle it until I made a clear cut.
I deleted 80% of my content and started from scratch. I categorized it into 4 categories based on my interests and made sure not to overload it with too many subscriptions.

Every other evening I open Feedly and go over 1-2 topics. It usually takes about 20-30 minutes to go over everything that was published in those topics and become up-to-date with the things that interest me.

I try to review the articles pretty quickly, as Feedly is really designed for speed. Whenever I run into a good article that is either too long or not easy to read through - I usually save it to Pocket so I can later deep dive into it.

Download Feedly.

4. Listen to articles (instead of having to read them)

When I don’t have enough time to read a good article, I save it to Pocket and play it while driving or doing something else.


Pocket is one of my all-time favorite mobile apps. I’ve been using it for years, probably since the days of the first App Store.
It is (in case you belong to that 1 % of people who haven’t heard of it) a place to store interesting articles to read later.

With Pocket, whenever you’re doing something on the internet, and come across a piece of content that seems interesting but you just can’t read it now - you can save it for later. Pocket eliminates the need to open web pages on multiple tabs and keep them open just as a reminder to visit them in the future. If your Chrome shows more than 30 open tabs right now and many of them are blog posts and articles - Pocket will save you.
The problem is that most people don’t have enough time to read all of their saved articles
Now, the main problem with saving so many articles is that most people don’t have the time to read all of their saved content. It’s content overflow again…

I’m pretty sure that if we could check Pocket’s user activities, we would have seen an average reading rate of 30%-40% of all saved articles.

That’s where Pocket’s playback functionality becomes handy: you can listen to your saved articles.
I’m saving around 10-20 articles per week, and whenever they pile up, I just listen to them just like I’m listening to podcasts when I workout or while driving.

It’s not as fun as listening to podcasts, and sometimes you’re missing some visual examples, but in most cases, that’s enough to get over the content overflow and markdown some exceptional stuff for later.

If you haven’t done it already: download Pocket.

5. Let others get rid of the garbage for you and deliver some manually curated content

When the going gets tough, you can always trust others to get going and find creative solutions to your problems.
If you’re too busy to explore new content and find quality reads, manually curated content is exactly what you need. I use Zest.


Zest uses manual community-curation and AI to filter out low-quality content for you.
Upon subscribing, it will guide you through a beautiful process where you will be able to select your interests and preferred time to get the daily picks on your mobile.

Zest has some great content and beautiful design, but what I really like about it, from a reader standpoint, is that unlike many other similar products - it doesn’t overwhelm you with notifications, emails, and spam. It’s just there to help you educate yourself with great professional content.
Install Zest.is.

Other great products that didn’t make it to the top 5: 

Medium - Medium is one of my favorite sources for good content. I try to read the daily newsletters and follow a few really good writers, but often enough I just don’t have the time to read it all.

Blinkist - Blinkist lets you read key summaries from around 3000 nonfiction books.
Like Pocket, it also lets you listen to those summaries, which makes it a perfect fit for people (like me) who want to read stuff without actually reading.

The flip side here is that the summary is so short, you usually don’t get enough background or the full stories behind the ideas, and sometimes a good story is what the reader needs in order to remember the idea.

Facebook and LinkedIn - Yes, I’m an active member in all possible groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. These 2 social networks may not be as popular as they used to be, but those professional forums are still the best place to find quality content and participate in interesting discussions.

The main problem with those groups is that they are loaded with information, so if you’re young, short on patience and constantly angry with other members writing stuff you don’t care about, you might be more of a Reddit person…

The list goes on…

I have some more ideas, but, readers have recently started pointing out that my posts are getting too long and that it makes it impossible to read everything.

Which kinds of makes sense if you think about the topic of this post...


The end.

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Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Omers said…
Hey, enjoyed the post! just wanted to update that the links for Zest and feedly should be fixed.thanks!

Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Eyal said…
Great recommendations! tnx!
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Eldad said…
Great list! I especially like Zest.is and didn't know Pocket allows you to listen to saved articles. That's going to make the daily Underground Tube journeys in London much more productive. THANKS!!