“Feeding” the need to read

I’m trying to find ways to manage my blog reading, since it’s come close to getting the better of me a few times lately. Ironically, reading too many productivity blogs keeps you from getting very much done.

I haven’t really found the blogs I read through random searching. The first few came via major and/or mainstream media websites like Salon, Slate and Amazon.com’s blogs. I’d follow their links to various posts, and then I discovered the blogroll links on those blogs, which led me to investigate yet more blogs. I added Reader to my Google account services, and started subscribing to feeds – having the updates come directly to you is more efficient than bouncing around the internet trying to keep up. When I last checked – about 10 minutes ago – I am subscribing to 107 feeds. Some of them don’t update more than once or twice a week, while others get new posts many times a day.

Trial and error over the last couple of months have helped me learn how to deal with this flood of information and opinion, and I’m sure I’ll keep learning. Right now, these tactics seem to be working:

  • Unless you’re checking back on something, keep your view set to “new items” (the default) to keep from getting too bogged down.
  • I resisted for awhile, but it’s definitely more efficient to set Reader to “list view” instead of “expanded view.” This lets you see the titles and snippets for at least 20 posts onscreen at once. Skip over those that don’t look interesting at first glance, and open the ones that do to read in full. On a related note, I’ve grown fonder of the blogs that syndicate a full-post feed, so I can read the whole thing in Reader without opening a separate tab.
  • Assign all subscriptions to a “folder,” and keep the folders closed in the sidebar. Each folder will show an item count, and you can expand it to see exactly which feeds in that folder have new posts.
  • Some of my folders are more active than others, and since I tend to get anxious when my new-item count gets very high, I’m learning to manage that by switching from my “all items” start/default view to a folder-specific view. When I do this, I’ll clear that folder by skimming the list view, reading the posts that interest me at that time, then marking all the posts in the folder as “read” so they’ll go away. This tends to happen most with feeds that have a lot of contributors and content, like Lifehacker, Consumerist, and the Huffington Post, where I’m honestly not interested in everything they’re writing about (sorry – no offense intended!)
  • At least once every couple of weeks, I review all the subscriptions and decide what’s not working for me – something that updates so rarely I forget it, whose content isn’t quite what I thought it would be, is too similar to another blog that does it better, or is just not a good fit after all – and unsubscribe. Unfortunately, I’m still adding more feeds than I’m deleting…

As I said, it’s a learning experience – the content, and managing it.

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