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10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading

Like it or not, RSS is now very popular across the internet, and it is widely believed to be the most productive way of staying updated on your favourite blogs and sites. The ease and efficiency of RSS feeds vs. visiting the actual web page has allowed people to subscribe to many more sites than they would regularly have time to read. Unfortunately, as your feeds pile up, you are forced to spend more and more time on your feed reader. Here are ten steps to (hopefully) help you streamline your feeds, and reduce the time you spend on your feeds each day.

 

1. Choose the right feed reader. Not all feed readers were created equal. Some have more features than others, and some are more convenient than others. It is important to find the right feed reader for you. If you only subscribe to a small number of blogs, you might want to check out a start-page with feed widgets, such as Google Personal Home, Netvibes, or Protopage. All of these services are designed to be your homepage, so you can usually change the color scheme, move around widgets, integrate your favourite search box, the weather, and much more, as well as monitor your feeds. If you subscribe to a higher volume of feeds, consider a reader with more organizing features, such as Google Reader. With Google reader, you can organize your feeds into folders, as well as give labels to individual articles. Personally, I use Google Reader, and I think that it is definitely the way to go if you seek organization options.

2. Use folders or pages to organize your feeds. If you can, group similar feeds together using folders in Google Reader, or pages in other feed readers such as Net vibes. You’ll find it much easier to digest information when all the other feeds on that page are related. Having an unorganized pile of feeds will require unnecessary clicking, and you may miss important or urgent information from a feed if you don’t visit that page.

3. Evaluate feed structure regularly. Once in a while you need to just stop and look at your feed reading setup, and ask yourself if you can make any changes to make it more efficient. Possibly moving a feed into a different folder, or combining folders in the case of Google Reader, or maybe moving a feed widget to a different page in Net vibes. You just need to sit down and re-organize sometimes, in order to keep your feeds organized.

4. Unsubscribe from feeds you don’t need. The other day I realized that under the ‘financial’ folder in my feed reader, I had about 8 feeds. Now normally I browse by folder, so I don’t usually take note of which blog an article is from, unless it catches my eye and I read it. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that most of the articles I skipped had been from the same 2 blogs in my financial category. After unsubscribing from these two blogs, my folder became much more streamlined and less cluttered. If you are using Google Reader, an easy way to check which blogs you read most is to use the ‘trends’ feature. I find this particularly useful, because it shows both the posting frequency of each blog, and the percentage of articles that you actually read.

5. Take advantage of time-saving shortcuts. If your feed reader offers keyboard shortcuts, make sure to take advantage of these. They can often save a lot of time and effort, especially when dealing with a large volume of feeds. In Google reader, you can press ‘u’ to hide the sidebar, ‘l’ to apply a label, and ‘n’ or ‘p’ to navigate between stories.

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6. Only read feeds when your have time. Reading your feeds can be addictive, and thus you need to establish your priorities. If you are in a rush, or you have something else that is fairly important and urgent, then do not read your feeds! Feeds should always be second to any actual work, so restrain yourself from constantly checking your feeds while working.

7. Determine which feeds are “urgent”. Even when you are rushed, there are some feeds who’s content may only be applicable to a short time-span. For example, my subscription to Woot! And Giveaway of the Day are both daily deals, and therefore need to be read before other feeds. Recognizing what is urgent and what is not can help you work when you need, without constantly thinking of your feeds.  

8. Take advantage of your reader’s other features. Each reader is unique, and likely has many features that are unique to itself. That’s why you should go through all your options, and maybe check out the help menu to discover new features. Making effective use of your specific feed reader’s capabilities is one of the biggest steps towards more productive feed reading.

9. Discover new feeds with sharing options. If you are using Google Reader, a useful option is the ‘Shared Items’. If you have any friends who use Google Reader, you can subscribe to their shared items feed, and receive updates on whatever they decide to share with you. This is really a group effort, but it can really help you discover new feeds, as well as share your favourites with your friends. I am not sure if this feature is available in other readers.

10. Use Firefox extensions or Greasemonkey scripts. If you are using a popular feed reader, you might be able to find extensions or scripts that can help customize your feed reading experience. Personally, I use the Google Reader Notifier plugin for Firefox, which displays the number of unread items in my GR account. I also use a grease monkey script which shows a small feed-icon on every webpage, and it displays a checkmark if I have already subscribed to that feed. This can help prevent subscribing twice, or not knowing if you’ve subscribed to a page or blog.

11. Subscribe to Gearfire’s RSS feed.

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29 Responses to “10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading”

  1. Spud says:

    Some really good tips here that should hopefully save you time. I myself seem to spend an increasing amount of time going through all my feeds. Yes I could delete some but then I might miss something.

  2. Craig says:

    Agree with Spud, can’t do without Google! But get there from my very own start page, although I cheated a bit and customised a Protopage to look like sound like and taste like me.

  3. [...] talked before about How to Read Feeds more Productively but what do you do when one of your favorite feeds starts posting too much? Well now you [...]

  4. [...] This is a simple task that can save you some reading time; for more information on how to read feeds productively, check out how to get good with Google Reader. 10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading[GearFire] [...]

  5. [...] This is a simple task that can save you some reading time; for more information on how to read feeds productively, check out how to get good with Google Reader. 10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading[GearFire] [...]

  6. sarah says:

    Great article! I use a trick (don’t remember where I read about this though!) that applies to your tip #7 — I have google reader folders marked “essential” and “non-essential” and label all feeds with one or the other; when time is short, I just hit the essential label and scroll through; when time is really short, I call up the non-essential list and mark all as read. (Some times you just have to cut your losses.)

    I’m adding a “timely” label today!

  7. [...] Prioritize Urgent RSS Feeds When Time is Short [RSS] November 3rd, 2007 by syndicated If you’ve got too many feeds and not enough time, productivity site GearFire suggests that you prioritize your feeds by level of urgency; i.e., time-sensitive. Even when you are rushed, there are some feeds who’s content may only be applicable to a short time-span. For example, my subscription to Woot! And Giveaway of the Day are both daily deals, and therefore need to be read before other feeds. Recognizing what is urgent and what is not can help you work when you need, without constantly thinking of your feeds. This is a simple task that can save you some reading time; for more information on how to read feeds productively, check out how to get good with Google Reader. 10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading[GearFire] [...]

  8. [...] This is a simple task that can save you some reading time; for more information on how to read feeds productively, check out how to get good with Google Reader. 10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading[GearFire] [...]

  9. [...] 10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading | GearFire Student Productivity Here are ten steps to (hopefully) help you streamline your feeds, and reduce the time you spend on your feeds each day. (tags: RSS Productivity Tips List) This was written by Carlos. Posted on Saturday, November 3, 2007, at 2:18 pm. Filed under Links. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Post a comment or leave a trackback. [...]

  10. Thássius says:

    Amazing tips. Everyday the time we spend on Feed Readers increases, although the time we spend on sites decreases. It’s important to have discipline or the user will never finish reading his/her new articles.

  11. [...] This is a simple task that can save you some reading time; for more information on how to read feeds productively, check out how to get good with Google Reader. 10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading[GearFire] [...]

  12. One way to really speed up your feed reading is to hire an editor. For instance, I’m reading 903 feeds and I put only the best stuff on my link blog. Yesterday, for instance, that was more than 4,000 items and I put only the best 50-100 items up. So, you get the best stuff without having to dig through 4,000 items.

    http://www.google.com/reader/shared/14480565058256660224

  13. [...] [10 ways to be more productive with RSS Feeds] -Gearfire [...]

  14. [...] 10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading – Gearfire [...]

  15. [...] Your RSS Feed Reading There are dozens of tips out there about how to be more productive in your RSS feed reading … how to organize the feeds better, how to make time for the hundreds of posts you need to [...]

  16. Guy says:

    Why all the focus on the inferior Google Reader? Bloglines all the way for me!

  17. Thanks for the great tips. Reducing your feed load and managing how often you check are crucial steps. Once you get those taken care of, getting faster at working through them is important. My average is between 10 and 20 seconds per post :-)

    Of course the tool should be helping with this. I wish someone at bloglines or google reader would check out Koch’s “The 80-20 principle”.

    More here, if you’re interested:

    Information provenance – the missing link between attention, RSS feeds, and value-based filtering
    http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2007/01/information-provenance-missing-link.html)

    Afraid to click? How to efficiently process your RSS feeds
    http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2007/05/afraid-to-click-how-to-efficiently.html

    What’s your feed reading speed?
    http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2007/07/whats-your-feed-reading-speed.html

  18. Syahid Ali says:

    hey, nice article. i’ve written something like this too, things that you can do to reduce rss overload

  19. [...] are dozens of tips out there about how to be more productive in your RSS feed reading … how to organize the feeds better, how to make time for the hundreds of posts you need to [...]

  20. [...] 10 Steps to More Productive Feed Reading – GearFire Student Productivity [...]

  21. [...] drain from your body, and you’ll begin to see the new age of communication. There’s much more you can do with RSS than I’ve let on here, because I just want to encourage you to get [...]

  22. [...] We’ve talked about feed (RSS, Atom, whatever) extensively in the past.  Whether it was more productive feed reading or overcoming overload, we’ve tried to help you deal with the feeds you already have coming [...]

  23. Albert says:

    #11 is the best tip =)

  24. beauty blog says:

    i personally use Wizz RSS which is an extension for firefox. I’ve used other RSS feed readers before but what I like about this one in particular is that it lists your feeds per site. Now each post per site is given a green button if you haven’t read it or a red button if you have. You don’t even have to click on the post link because it gives you a preview of the post and picture before hand. Works great…

    paul

  25. I too use Wizz Rss. It’s great, i never have to go to each invidual site to read my favorite blogs. It all comes to me! This makes my schedule run smoother because I can quickly browse for posts im interested in rather than spend the day surfing blogs. I highly suggest it. ~Steve

  26. Thanks for the tips. Tools are important, but I’d argue it’s more important to choose content extremely carefully, keep your number of sources (feeds) low, and get efficient and processing them. There should at most be two categories: Actionable and non-actionable. The former you process daily or so, just like any other inbox. The latter to process opportunistically, and you should feel no remorse at clicking “Mark All Read” when there are too many.

  27. Steve says:

    Blogging has become big in my field. I have been thinking about using Google Reader as it seems the easiest to use and easy since I have gmail. Its going to take some time to memorize the shortcuts, but I think that will help tremendously.

    @sarah I like your “essential” and “non-essential” idea. I know GR has the stars things as well. I usually use that as a reminder that I want to go back and read the whole post. The problem then becomes making time to sort through those and not get backlogged.

  28. DStudioBali says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I usually use flock to read the feed

  29. Reducing feed load and managing how often you check are crucial steps. Thanks for sharing the tips

  30. what a great tip, thank you

  31. Pioneer says:

    i personally use Wizz RSS which is an extension for firefox. I?ve used other RSS feed readers before but what I like about this one in particular is that it lists your feeds per site. Now each post per site is given a green button if you haven?t read it or a red button if you have. You don?t even have to click on the post link because it gives you a preview of the post and picture before hand. Works great?

  32. Good post. Thanks for information about shortcut key of feed reader and Firefox extension.

  33. what a great job. I never knew that before. Thanks for informing!

  34. We enjoyed to read your great post. Very inspired. Thanks.

  35. i am using google and yahoo as my feed reader

  36. Generic says:

    Very Good post. Thanks for information about shortcut key of feed reader and Firefox extension.

  37. good job this very great posting,..!

  38. Ha ha ha …
    The core point is number 11.

  39. radyo dinle says:

    Now, this is actually an interesting notion. See, every blog you see out there, every web site, every service, has two faces. The face you see, and the behind the scenes face you’ll never see. That “behind the scenes” face is what some people end up writing about. Here, for example, what we put up every day is the public face. But what you don’t see is what goes into each of these posts.

  40. Thanks for this article and great tips. I think trying your methods will help me a lot!

  41. cameraprices says:

    11. use a mobile phone to read rss feeds :)

  42. feed reader offers keyboard shortcuts, make sure to take advantage of these. They can often save a lot of time and effort, especially when dealing with a large volume of feeds. In Google reader, you can press ‘u’ to hide the sidebar, ‘l’ to apply a label, and ‘n’ or ‘p’ to navigate between stories.