Saving Time for Productivity with Google Reader


As we’ve noted before, if you read a lot of feeds, or go for speed or feed organization, Google Reader is the best in its field.

Many people have tons of feeds, check them often, and spend a lot of time reading blog posts. So much time, in fact, that it cuts into their getting-important-stuff-done time. And that’s not productive.

So we’ve compiled a list of tips that can make you get the most out of Google Reader. It’s meant to be a pick-your-poison type of list, so choose the tips that would work best for you.

1. Use the keyboard. This is an obvious one for some, but it’s surprising how many people still use the mouse to browse through Google Reader. Learning just a few keyboard shortcuts takes only a few minutes, and not much longer to get used to, and then you’re rocking Reader like a hacker. Some of the more common ones: “j” and “k” for next and previous, spacebar for next item or page, “v” to view the original post, “s” to star an item, shift + “s” to share it. For a full list of keyboard shortcuts, press “?” (shift + “/”) while in Reader.

2. Use list view. I’ve recently switched from expanded view to list view, simply because it’s much easier to scan through a bunch of post headlines that way. I choose the ones I really want to read, and mark the rest as read. In this way, I can get through a bunch of feeds in just a few minutes.

3. Scan through expanded view. If you like to scan through more than just the headline to decide whether you want to read through the full post (as I did until recently), you’ll want to use expanded view. Using the spacebar, you can scroll through a post to read the first paragraph or two, read any subtitles, and scan through the items of a list in a post if you’d like. Then decide whether you want to read the full post, or move on. You shouldn’t have to spend more than a few seconds per post using this method, unless you decide to read the post in more depth.

4. Cut down to 10 feeds. A-list blogger Robert Scoble famously reads 622 feeds every morning (and used to read well over 1,000). While I’ve never reached that level of insanity, I had well over 100 feeds in my recent past. Since then, I cut it down to 60 feeds, then 40, then 20, then 16. In the last two weeks, I cut it down to just the 10 most essential feeds. And guess what? I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, I feel much less stress about trying to read so much information each day, and I spend much less time in Google Reader. If 10 feeds is too few for you, go for 20.

5. Read only 5 posts a day. This is another recent trick of mine. Instead of scanning through my feeds, and then expanding reading all the posts that interest me, I read just 5 per day. This forces me to prioritize, choosing only the 5 most interesting-sounding, and it drastically reduces my reading time. I used to read 4 or 5 times that many!

6. Share posts on your blog. If you’re a blogger, and like to share with your readers good posts you read, use Google Reader’s “share” feature, which is the best and easiest in the field. As you’re reading your feeds, just press “share” (or shift + “s”). Use this tool to create the code to add to your blog’s sidebar so your readers can see up-to-date headlines that you share with them. Fast and easy.

7. “Essential” tag. If you don’t want to cut your feeds down to 10 or 20, but don’t want to read through all of them every day, choose just the most essential and give them an “essential” tag. Now, if you don’t have much time to read through all of your feeds, you can just scan through the essential folder, and get to the rest later.

8. Organized tags. Another good approach is to sort your feeds by topic, and give them tags with the topic’s name. This way, you can just scan through one folder, if you urgently need to read through all your Manga feeds (for example), and get to the others as you need them.

9. Weed feeds with trends. One of Google Reader’s handiest features, and least used by many users, is Trends. I find it invaluable in helping me weed out the feeds I don’t really read, or ones that don’t update very often. Using Trends, you can find the non-essential feeds, and easily unsubscribe (click on the little trash can icon next to the feed).

10. Ditch the sidebar. Want more reading room? Press “u” and the sidebar disappears from Reader, giving you much more space to read stuff. (Press “u” again and the sidebar comes back.)

11. Use the star for later reading. If you just want to scan through your headlines, but don’t have time for full reading, use the “star” feature of Reader to mark stories for later reading. This way, you can “mark all as read” to empty out your inbox, and come back when you have more time to read your starred items.

12. Read feeds once a day only. When I was addicted to my feeds, I would check them at least once an hour (and sometimes, embarrassingly, much more). Since I had well over 100 feeds, I was often rewarded with a new post from one of the feeds. However, this is a horrible waste of time and a great way to interrupt the task you’re trying to complete. Instead, designate one time a day as your feed reading time, scan through all of your feeds quickly, and be done with it.

13. Read off-line. One of the problems with reading feeds (or blogs in general) is that each post often leads to other posts, either on the same blog or on other blogs. And those will lead to more. Soon, even if you only decided to read one post today, you might find yourself having wasted an hour’s time by surfing from link to link. To prevent that, use Reader’s (relatively) new offline feature (the “Offline” link at the top of the page). Download all of your feeds, disconnect from the Internet, and then scan and read the posts. Now you can’t surf!

14. Combine Reader with Gmail. OK, if you’re like me, you love your Reader, and you love your Gmail. They’re both quick, powerful, easy to use, and have similar interfaces. Well, with this Greasemonkey script, you can combine the two. It puts a “Feeds” link in the Gmail sidebar, and when you click on it, it opens your feeds to the right (where your list of emails would usually be) in list view. Neato!

15. Add search to Reader. Perhaps the most notable feature missing from Google Reader is search. I mean, c’mon Google! You’re a search company! Never fear, however, as this Greasemonkey script adds the search function for you. Now Reader is complete.



Reducing your feed subscriptions to 10 or post readings to 5 a day, are pretty weak tips. They fight the reason you read feeds to begin with.

Brian Carnell

Am I the only one who finds reading Google Reader with the keyboard interminably slow? I can scan through stories much faster using a mouse scroll wheel than using the key commands, and its much easier to follow since its not making the odd jumps that the keyboard commands do.

Lee Alexander

I co-developed a new Windows RSS Reader called FeedGhost. If you have a spare moment you might want to try it out, it has:

* Vista style UI.
* Tagging.
* River and Outlook style reading options.
* Prioritization (automatic, explicit, keyword boosting ).
* Link Blog options( you can create one or more link blogs against tags).
* Synchronization across installations.
* Publishing Trends (so you can clear out feeds that haven’t published for a while)

There’s loads more features as well. Check it out at



if you only have 10 feeds, do you really need rss to begin with? might as well go directly to the sites themselves.


Great tips… I really love using the google custom home page for the same sort of stuff.

Matthew Lang

Here’s a tip if you would like to weed down the number of feeds you have. Aggregate similar feeds together using Yahoo Pipes.

This way you can stay subscribed to the feeds that matter while also reducing the number of overall feeds you have.

There’s an article on this on the Lifehacker site.

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