Simplify 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 read each day, how to read them faster.

Except that reading so many posts each day isn’t productive, in most cases … it’s busy work, it stresses you out (especially if you’re not keeping up with the hundreds of posts you need to read), and it keeps you from doing truly important work. Not always the best idea.

Instead of reading more productively, try simplifying your feed reading. Read less, spend less time reading, get more done. And stress out less.

Sound impossible? It’s simple, actually.

Three steps:

1. Cut down your feeds. I started with about 100 feeds, and through a succession of cuts, I’m now down to only the 10 most important feeds. Each time I made cuts, I unsubscribed from about a third of my feeds. The first day of cuts, I was down to sixty-something feeds. Second day, about 40. Third day, 27 feeds. Fourth day, 18. Fifth day, 12. It took me six days of cuts (spaced about 3-4 days apart) before I got down to just my top 10. But you know what? I don’t miss the other 90 feeds I cut at all. I’ve narrowed my reading down to the 10 feeds that give me the absolute most value each day … and for all the rest, I will usually hear about the best posts somehow.

2. Set Google Reader to list view. I recommend Google Reader, as it seems to me to be the fastest of the feed readers. But if you’ve got another preference, that’s fine, as long as you can switch to list view. I used to read it in full mode, and scan through each post to see whether I wanted to read the full post. However, that took a lot of time … switching to list view gave me the headlines to scan through, and nothing else. Now, I quickly scan the headlines, and wheel-click on the posts that interest me so that I can read them in a new tab. After picking the posts I want, I “Mark all as read”, close Reader, and go to read the posts in their tabs.

3. Only read 5 posts a day. When opening the posts I want to read in new tabs, I only select 5 posts. I might want to read 10, but that will take an hour. I only give myself 20 minutes or so of reading, so 5 posts is just about right. You might choose a different number, but the key point is that limiting the number of posts you read saves time, and forces you to focus on just the most important ones. Eliminate the chaff and just read the wheat.