I believe RSS is one of the best inventions of the last decade. RSS news feed reading has made consuming information on the web so much easier. You can read content from hundreds of blogs and sites from a single interface. No need to visit them separately.
RSS is extremely useful without a doubt. But once you get into the feed reading mode, it can be quite addictive too. You keep checking the feeds one after the other, visiting sites, sharing articles, and, of course, losing track of time in the process.
RSS feeds are meant to keep you informed, not make you unproductive. Here are seven useful tips, which, if implemented correctly, could make sure that you stay productive even without giving your favorite website RSS feeds a miss. Check them out.
1. Use Google Reader and/or FeedDemon
This is a no-brainer. If you are using any other feed reading tool other than Google Reader (web based, offficial Google RSS reader) or FeedDemon (a desktop based RSS news aggregator), I’d say not only you are missing on some cool features, but you are also spending more time than you should reading feeds.
Both Google Reader and FeedDemon come with a great set of features like shortcuts, quick sharing, panic button(in FeedDemon) etc, that enhance your feed reading productivity . You can even sync Google Reader with FeedDemon quite well, so you could use both of them too.
2. Make use of keyboard shortcuts
I could go on and on while praising the usage of keyboard shortcuts, especially when it comes to feed reading with Google Reader or FeedDemon. Other RSS readers also provide keyboard shortcuts so don’t be worried if you are not ready yet to make the switch. But using keyboard shortcuts is a must when it comes to productive RSS feed reading.
Once you learn and use keyboard shortcuts, you won’t need to toggle between the mouse and keyboard frequently. And you can’t imagine the time it saves in the long run. Web Worker Daily has a great tutorial on Google Reader keyboard shortcuts.
3. Create a ‘ Top Feeds ‘ Folder
If you are subscribed to a hundred website feeds then it’s never a good idea to read them all everyday. Instead, it’s better to create a folder named “top feeds” or anything similar, and group the most important feeds, the ones which you can’t miss, under it.
The top feeds folder can contain main news sites, major blogs which publish daily, and blogs of friends and kins if any. Be selective while putting feeds in this folder. Only select a site which really deserves your time and attention every single day.
4. Set aside time
I think it’s important to set aside time for RSS feed reading everyday. You don’t need to read them all at one go. You could select 2-3 time intervals of 15-20 minutes each, spread evenly throughout the day. This would ensure that you stay abreast with the latest news around the world.
Setting aside time ensures that feed reading activity won’t interfere with your other tasks. You have set specific time intervals when the RSS reader gets your attention and those should be the only times when you open it. This technique is a part of batch processing tasks, which made Darren Rowse 10 times more productive.
5. Hit the panic button when required
Don’t hesitate to hit the “Mark all as read” or the panic button when you’ve got too many unread feeds and can’t decide which ones to read. This could happen when you’ve been out for some days and come back to find an overloaded RSS reader.
It’s always better to start with a clean slate instead of wasting time trying to find what you’ve missed. Don’t worry about that. The web is too dynamic and the information will find you through Twitter, Facebook and other such means. You won’t stay ignorant. So don’t worry.
6. Save some feeds for weekends
Like creating a top feeds folder is important, it’s also essential that you save some feeds for the weekend. This means you won’t touch these feeds on weekdays, no matter what. If you have spare time, do stuff like reading a book, watching a TED video or reading feeds which aren’t a part of top feeds or weekend reading.
Setting aside certain feeds only for the weekends would ensure that you aren’t tempted to read them during the week, when you need to focus on other tasks. Plus, it also helps to reduce your obsession with RSS feeds.
7. Use Reeder 2.0 for iPhone
If you read feeds on the iPhone, which I am sure many of you do, then I’ll recommend using Reeder 2.0, a nifty app for the purpose. For other mobile platforms like Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry, I think Google Reader’s native mobile interface should work fine. If you know of any cool apps for these devices then share them in the comments. I’d love to know.
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I agree, RSS news feed reading can take up a lot of your time if you are subscribed to a lot of blog (like I am!).
I use Google Reader too, but I really don’t know much about it’s features. Maybe you could point out some features because you are recommending it.
Good idea, Nabeel. I’ve been using Google Reader for over 3 years now and I think I can point out some cool features in that tool.
I’ll talk to Mike and see if I can come up with a post on that. Thanks. 🙂
Or, even better, use an aggregator like digg.com, techmeme.com or Hacker News 😉
Well, aggregators like digg and techmeme serve a different purpose. A feed reader is for selective reading where you can add stuff you like. You can’t do that in those aggregators.
I have created A, B, C, D lists, A list are feeds that read regularly, B list are for stuff I focused, then most C and all D lists rss are stored in my 2nd google account and check them randomly. Or I can not stand to “mark all as read” all day long, 2000+ feeds!!! Sounds crazy.
The Share option has been invaluable for my co-workers and I. You follow other people and when they find something they find noteworthy, they can share it with others. There is also an option to add a note which has started many a discussion.
When I have been away from my reader for a few days, I generally mark everything as read and start fresh. I know my co-workers will have shared anything noteworthy so I don’t have to worry about missing anything.
And they subscribe to different feeds than I do, so I benefit from their feed list without having to actually subscribe to them.
the web version of google reader on the blackberry is awful. there is a great app called unread which works great.
Check out Alltop if you have a chance. We’ve aggregated 40,000 feeds by 800 topics so you don’t have to find and organize them. You can also create a custom collection of feeds.
Google Reader is an empty magazine rack. We’re one filled with the current issues. For example:
I’m really loving Early Edition on iPad for RSS reading too. It’s a little buggy sometimes, but it lays the articles out like a newspaper and supports grouping by category too.
Definitely worth checking out.
I use Netvibes for RSS reading for several years now. And it shows as most apropriate way for me.
also, check Gruml. A very cool RSS reader for mac that works perfect with google reader and had plenty of sharing options.
I can’t seem to find the location in Reeder 2 to add a feed: is the only way to add contents to use a regular browser, outside the app ?
If it’s the case, that’s not really user friendly, a fortiori for an app that is not free because I could as well use the browser instead to access Google Reader directly.
I’m attempting to solve the problem of feed reading taking too much time with my latest app. Feedingo – http://feedingo.com
This is a great post and I think I might add a “Top Feeds” feature into Feedingo!
\ end shameless self promotion
I’m a feed junkie. I was so happy when Google Reader put in the panic button like FeedDemon had. I need to familiarize myself with the shortcut keys. I know that will make it a lot easier.
I have a top or favorite feeds, the only problem is that folder fills fast too.
Great post, thanks for the tips.
In addiction I also use add-on read later for firefox, which saves the post for, well, reading later, and it gives me the choice to keep it if I want to read it offline as well…
As I am now in exams season, I have a LOT of them in the reading list 😡
But I like it 🙂
When I use Google Reader, I will tick ‘Show updated’ and ‘Hide Unread Counts’ to make me read faster.
Usually, the numbers of the unread counts make me feel like I shouldn’t read this feed which is apparently going to be more and more. Hiding the counts will make my life easier. Just read anything that is unread!
I like Netvibes.
I use and Android app called FeedSpeak (http://feedspeak.tk) that reads my Google Reader RSS feeds to me using text to speech, so I can listen to my news on the go.
I really like using NewsRack on both iOS and Mac. Reeder is also an excellent choice though.