CPD Hacks - Create your own supercharged weekly digest

/ rss, current awareness, cpd, outlook

This is part two of our series of CPD Hacks, covering tools and shortcuts to help with your Continuing Professional Development (CPD). You can read the first in the series here.

Current awareness and removing barriers to keep up with your sector

An important part of CPD is making sure your knowledge stays relevant and up to date. With so much information available (and so little time) this can be difficult to stay on top of.

It can be useful to familiarize yourself with some tools that will cut down on the time it takes to gather information, and to help you to avoid information overload. You can make information you receive more relevant to your needs by creating an RSS feed that will keep you updated with new posts from blogs and websites from your sector or specialism, without you having to check back to individual sites every time.

Tools for combining RSS feeds into a single feed

If you have a list of sites that you regularly visit to check for new content, you can create a single, custom feed to alert you when something new happens. To create your personal feed, try RSS mix which allows up to 100 RSS feeds into a single feed. Alternatively, Zapier also allows you to build feeds for sites that don’t offer RSS such as Twitter.

How to find feeds for sites

Many sites will have a feed, but it’s not always obvious where it is. There are a few things you can try:

  • Find the RSS icon in the address bar feed icon
  • Feed addresses usually follow a standard pattern. Try going to the home page, or the page you want updates from, and adding a subdirectory of a page URL e.g. /feed, /rss, feed.rss, feed.xml
  • Create a feed from a site that doesn’t have one using FetchRSS or Zapier.

There’s a useful page on Zapier with information about finding RSS feeds here: https://zapier.com/blog/how-to-find-rss-feed-url/

Get the updates delivered to where you are, in a format to suit you.

RSS in Outlook

This allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds directly in Microsoft Outlook alongside your email inbox.

To add an RSS feed in Outlook, right-click RSS Feeds (Outlook 2013) or RSS Subscriptions (Outlook 2016) in the Mail Navigation Pane.

You can then configure the settings for the feeds. Bear in mind this could be slightly different depending on which version of Outlook you are using.

RSS in a single daily or weekly email

You can arrange to receive an email for your RSS feed. A lot of services allow you to receive an email alert every time an RSS feed is updated with new content but this seems superfluous when you can often subscribe directly to the website. Instead, you may want to set up a single, daily (or weekly), digest that includes all the latest items from feeds you subscribe to.

So once you’ve curated a feed of the sites that you want to keep up with, you can then set up a daily digest email. Try Blogtrottr.com or IFTTT. Blogtrottr allows you to enter the RSS you created in RSS Mix and also decide on the frequency of notifications.

An RSS digest you can share

You can also create a newsletter based on an RSS feed and schedule that to send to a list of subscribers (or just yourself).

Popular newsletter software like Mailchimp and Mailerlite support automatically generated newsletter campaigns based on an RSS feed. Mailchimp has limited editing options for RSS feed content, while Mailerlite gives you a lot of control over the feed content such as the titles and summaries. This is handy if you’re sharing your newsletter with others in your team but may not be necessary if you want a fully automated workflow just for yourself.

A personalised, automated way to keep up

Finding the time to keep up in such a dynamic sector is a challenging part of CPD. By curating your own knowledge sources into a custom ‘superfeed’ and automating where you can, you can create a workflow that suits your own work tools and schedule and helps you keep your knowledge current.

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