Save time by approaching your RSS subscriptions in a completely new way: 8 principles for effective reading of blogs

RSS feeds is an awesome tool to save lots of time. You can get them all in the same place and not visit every single web-site to check if there are some updates. But often it becomes quite the opposite.

I personally have 573 subscriptions. That’s a lot. You risk looking at your favorite RSS feeds aggregator (like, Google Reader for example), seeing 1000+ unread items there and then spending half a day passively browsing through them. Instead of pursing your purpose and doing something that will bring you closer to your goals.

So, what are the lifehacks to minimize the time and maximize the value of reading blogs or other RSS feeds?

1. Attitude change

First and most important principle. You don’t need to read everything. All these unread items are not equal to your mail inbox. You don’t absolutely need to read, review, assign an action or even worse memorize every single one of them. It’s just a suggestion of the stuff that was published on the web that you might be interested in. If you are not, “marks all as read” button is there for you.

2. Think before adding

Often people (me included) add blogs to their reader just because of one cool post they read before or because of the author’s personality. None of these reasons necessarily mean that the blog will deliver any value to you in the future. What they do mean is that you will need to spend your time sorting these posts.

3. Judge by headlines

Reading the headlines is one of the principles of the smart and speed reading. But don’t forget to make decisions about reading judging by headlines.

Headlines should give a good understanding what value you get from the post. It may be new information you need. It may be just fun. Anyway, you need to be clear about the contents of the post before you read it. And only then you might want to proceed to the post itself. Example?

Imagine the headline “15 things every internet user must know”. I see it as a typical headline that screams:
“I’m totally useless blog post which conveys no specific value, only stupid generalities that everybody is already aware of, waste valuable 5 minutes of your time reading me and kill few thousands of brain cells!”

Often I browse through 30 headlines and then mark all the posts as read because I see no value in reading them right now. Imagine, what time would it take if I read every single post…

4. Delete bullshitters

You see headline like one I mentioned above? Probably you don’t even know what is that blog about? Or don’t remember why you added it?

Then, why not to glimpse at the last 10 headlines and decide if you even need it in your reader? Chances are you don’t. So, unsubscribe.

5. Structure

It’s much, much more productive and easier to read folder-by-folder. This is the structure I personally use in Google Reader.


Well, names speak for themselves. It’s not perfect but allows me to process all the new information quickly and effectively. Try something that works for you.

6. Learn just “in time” vs “just in case”

It’s more effective to learn what actually need right now. Especially in the Google era when you can find almost anything almost any time. If you don’t currently need particular piece of information then you will probably do better if you don’t consume it. More about this principle on Lifehacker.

If you’re absolutely sure you are going to need in the future, then just clip it to the Evernote or like it in Google Reader. Alternatively, you can just find it using search through your subscriptions (available in Google Reader, you might also like to create a quick shortcut for Chrome)

7. Apply speed reading

There are lot of the free speed reading courses that can help you save some time and increase both comprehension and retention of the information at the same time. If you didn’t try it before you might like to do it now. Where to start? Wikipedia, video course, Tim Ferriss’ post.

8. Delete active instead of inactive

While doing a clean-up people tend to delete so called dead blogs. But usually they are not dangerous. You want even see them in the “show updated only” interface. And if they are still of some value there is no reason to delete them. Regardless of the fact that they are updated once a year.

What subscriptions should be looked closely at and questioned about their value foremost are ones that are updated frequently. My definition of “frequently” is from once a week to few times a day. These are the ones that disturb us mostly and should compensate with the great content. You can use Trends in Google Reader to get to know what feeds are updated more and less frequently.

9*. One in – one out

There is another way to reduce the information overload. I personally don’t currently use it. But you might like it anyway. Just keep the number of the subscriptions constant.

For example, you already have 100 subscriptions. It means that in order to add one more you need to delete one. Try it if nothing else works.

I hope my post didn’t fall into the 4th category!   😉

Good luck with implementation!

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