Getting Started: Research and Organization
When starting a venture we often have a lot of catching up to do, especially if entering a new sector. Over the years I’ve jumped into totally different businesses (from a custom luxury e-commerce company to a local service business, then a travel app, and now the non-profit world) that have given me the opportunity to learn lots of ways to make sure I take in as much information, as fast as possible, without getting overwhelmed and storing it strategically so that I can act on it when needed. In this post, I’m going to share how I’ve been going about this these first two weeks so that it hopefully helps you when starting your own project!
Where and how am I getting relevant information?
The first thing that I did was search these things on Google: “Top books for running a school,” “Top books for teaching,” “Top education books,” “Top education podcasts,” “Twitter education accounts.” and so on… from here I put the books that I was finding on my Goodreads account and if it had enough good ratings, I added it to my ‘to read’ list. Then I looked at the ‘recommended’ books based off of those and so on. Once I had found all of the ‘top’ books on the subject I went to the Kindle store (on smile.amazon.com to give to charity!) and then considering the price and the reviews on there, I picked the ones that looked like they had the most potential to guide me in the right direction.
Keeping lists of recommendations on Goodreads really helps me have some ‘peace of mind’ knowing that I won’t forget a great book and once it’s safely stored somewhere, I can make space in my head for other things.
I did the same for Twitter accounts and podcasts, I followed the ones I found and also the recommended ones based off of those I had found. Since it’s free to subscribe and follow what I usually do is just take a quick glance at their most recent episodes/ tweets and see if it’s something that looks interesting or useful and then follow/ subscribe.
Once I start diving into these things (books, twitter, podcasts, online articles) they usually lead me to things I hadn’t even considered before or things that are worth looking more deeply into. Since I never know when I’ll hear, read or see a great idea or something that peaks my curiosity; I make sure to use a note-taking app that syncs on all of my devices and also works offline. In my case, that’s Evernote. I also make sure to always carry a notebook with me for when I’m around people (you never know what you can learn from someone!). Also, most of the time, it’s considered rude if you take out your phone during a conversation, even if it’s to write down notes, but it’s a bit flattering if you take out your old school notebook so it’s best to always be prepared.
To not get overwhelmed about where to categorize things or where to put them, I usually just write quick random thoughts in my notebooks or in a note I have titled “Random” in Evernote (see above). This helps me feel good that I won’t forget it later and doesn’t keep me from jotting it down. Then once a week or so I go through these “Random” notes and sort them into corresponding notes and if they’re brand new ideas, I just make a new note with the point as the title so that I know it’s for me to research and dig into later. For example, in this screenshot of my Evernotes above and snapshot of my notebook below, you can see that some of these were written down in a hurry, some thoughts aren’t even complete sentences, some are in English and some in Spanish, and my handwriting isn’t very legible but that’s okay because they don’t really have to make sense to anyone but yourself. You can also see I have a note titled “Listening for Students” with no content yet, that is because I heard there are schools out there with great programs to teach students to listen and that it had a lot of benefits, I still haven’t dug into it, but it’s something worth researching later!
With so much stuff to do, where do I find the time to do this?
In the beginning, research is a huge part of my day, so it’s not so hard, I just make sure to prioritize it. Doesn’t make sense for me to move forward without getting the basics down! But that’s only a few days, then your to-do list starts getting longer than you have time for, so that’s when it’s important to be smart about your time. What’s worked for me is scheduling everything, almost making these things habits that run on autopilot. In the morning I like to go to the gym and do 15-45mins on the stationary bike where I read my Kindle, on my way there and back (and anytime I drive) I like to listen to my podcasts, and then before bed, I like to get another 15-60 mins of reading in. When I’m brushing my teeth, making a snack, or doing any mindless tasks I also like to listen to my podcasts then. As far as online research, I just do it as I need it! Don’t like to blindly jump into things, so that’s a big part of my day!
Productivity hack: I also listen to my podcasts at 2x speed and use this amazing tool for any online articles or emails so that I can 2x that as well. Actually… considering I’m a slow reader… I’m probably 3x-ing it haha.
Another very important thing is to get out there and get to know the people you’re going to help and the ones you’ll be collaborating with. The more you know them and the situation/ market you’re getting into the more valuable the books and resources you use to get information from because you’ll have the people that matter in mind and you can be tailoring what you learn to your environment and situation.
The important thing is to go into this with your end goal in mind but to be open to ideas on how to best get there and be flexible with your approach. In my case, my main goal is to help as many kids reach their full potential and my idea was that building schools would be the way to go but as I’m learning more I now know I also need to help their families and environment outside of school. This is what makes things exciting, being curious and enjoying every step of the journey on your way to your goal.
Lastly, when I have so many ideas in my head and they start to get tangled up, it really helps when you journal at night. Just for yourself, not worrying about grammar, or the order of things or even the content, just getting those thoughts into sentences on a page helps you get more clear and organized. Hope this helps!