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Feed Reader: Inbox Zero

Oh happy day!

As I’ve said before, I find it nearly impossible to keep up with the steady stream of information that gets pushed at me all sorts of ways. In the case of my RSS feeds, I’ve opted in, chosen to receive this deluge of content, and yet it still feels like a job to get through it all.

On days like today when I get down to zero, I feel like I’ve won the battle.

But not the war.

I have a method for managing my incoming emails on my work and personal accounts, but I have yet to devise a system for RSS feeds. I’ve already deleted as many subscriptions as I feel comfortable parting with, and hitting “Mark all as read” is just pointless. I want to know what these folks have to say, and I want to be able to digest it all and perhaps even act on information as necessary — forward it to a coworker or friend, tweet about it, write a blog post. But I always feel like I’m skipping over so much.

Does anyone have advice they can share? Please post your tips in the comments for all to benefit. Thanks!

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  • kevin farner

    I am a big believer in what both Tim Ferris (of 4-hour work week fame) and Mark Hurst (of Bit Literacy acclaim) have suggested, which is to batch your reading of emails/blogs.

    I only check emails/blog a couple times per day. I scan through all my blogs and star the ones that I feel are worth reading in more detail. Then I read in detail my starred readings at my leisure, sometimes as a scheduled to do, sometimes at night, sometimes when I am procrastinating doing something else :)

  • http://barthox.wordpress.com Xavier

    I scan the titles, when it looks interesting, I open the post (I’m using Google reader) and read the first lines.

    If it is indeed interesting, I use the Firefox addon ‘Read it Later’.

    When I have some time, I go through my ‘Reading List’ (which is actually also another sort of Inbox that tends to grow faster than I can read …)

  • http://sourjayne.com/ Sarah

    That Firefox Read it Later addon looks interesting. Will have to check it out. I organize mine into folders like “UX design” and “friends” and “just for fun” – I tend to stay on top of some folders (all my “friends” feeds usually get read) while others pile up (I have a “Seattle” folder full of interesting stuff about Seattle I have yet to read.)

    Putting it in digestable chunks with an addon like mentioned above may be just the ticket to getting through some of that! Awesome.

  • mathijs

    First I believe that I should reed or atleast scan all my feeds. In my reader (Netvibes)I make 3 items visible, that calms me down. When I scan a postand see something interesting I bookmark it with delicious (flow_m) and every weekend I take my time for it.

  • http://standardsforlife.com/ Natalie

    Hi Whitney! I love Google Reader for this reason. I can quickly go post by post (not folder by folder) and read or scan as I want. Also, what I love is the “share” button. I’ve been using this with Tumblr with great success.

    I set up tumblr to receive the feed from google reader shared items, then just click the star to share it and it automatically posts it to my tumblr blog. It also collects my delicious links (which are things I want to save more permanently – to tag and search).

    Later, I browse my tumblr blog for things I’ve saved or shared and spend a little more time on feed items that way. Then I spend only about ten minutes a day looking at my actual feeds coming in and I have an empty inbox all the time now. I have a hard time letting it pile up. :)

    If you click my link, look in the nav for my tumblr link to see what I mean.

  • http://coreyh.com/blog Corey

    My system:
    1) Get a desktop RSS reader. I use FeedDemon on Windows. If you’re going to read 400+ feeds, you need single digit millisecond response times. I set it to pre-fetch all images ahead of time, so they load instantly and aren’t depending on net speeds. It syncs with Newsgator, so it keeps my read status across machines.
    2) keyboard shortcuts galore.
    3) Grouped into “friends” “must read business” “eye candy” type categories. I have 15 top level categories like this. Each group has a different “view” whether it be headline only, excerpt or full text.
    4) Watch lists. FeedDemon has watches that I use for keywords of all sorts.I watch my company name (Notches), I watch SoHo, UWS (my neighborhoods), I watch competitors, etc. When I can’t read everything, at least I know that I’m not missing something really “important” because it will show up here.
    5) Sorry this is turning into an ad for FeedDemon (it is free, so who cares), but it has a “panic button” and you can mark anything over x hours/days read.
    6) I have a recurring task set up (I use Sciral Consistency http://sciral.com/consistency/) that forces me to unsubscribe from at least one feed per week.
    7) I know lots of people talk about headlines, but F that — too slow, I look at pictures. :)

  • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

    Thank you all for the great tips!