Social Media Tips and Tricks #2: Read Smarter

Welcome to part 2 of the series on social media! This series of tips will focus on how to make your online reading more efficient.

Must. Read. All. The. Things.Social Media Tip #4: Work Smarter, not Harder. 

I love the internet. Billions of fascinating bits of information, lovely photos, and hilarious viral videos are uploaded daily.

That would also be the primary problem with the internet.

It’s easy to end up curled in a fetal ball under your desk just thinking about all the journals you aren’t reading, but that you think you should. And that’s the boring stuff.

What amazing podcasts and blog posts are you missing? What fresh hell of asshattery is some politician spouting off about?  The most important corollary to Tip 4 is:

4.1. Give yourself permission to not read everything.  

You can’t read it all. It’s impossible.  So stop feeling guilty about it.

4.2. No. Seriously. Don’t try to read it all.

Later in this post, I will explain how you can have have all the awesomeness of the internet delivered to you automatically. That can then become an additional source of stress.

Journal Table of Contents in your inbox? For a journal you haven’t looked at in months? Unsubscribe.
Feed or bookmark for a blog that updates rarely, or doesn’t match your interests anymore? Delete.
Be realistic. If you have a bunch of stuff sitting in your inbox, and you haven’t read it in weeks? It’s not urgent, and you can just delete or archive it.

Before you start using any of the tools I’m going to tell you about, take a hard look at what you are doing right now in terms of your reading and work habits.  What can you stop doing?

Look at your “dumb things I gotta do” list and get rid of items that are vague.  Take a day and clean your inbox and workspace completely.  Have you turned off your email notifications, so that you aren’t interrupted constantly?  Everything piled up digitally or physically around you is taking up emotional space.

This paper (just pages 4-8 to skip the academic jargon) has a very nice summary of the Getting Things Done methodology. Give it a look. GTD made a HUGE difference in my stress levels when I found it 7 yrs ago.

Now you are ready, grasshopper.

4.3 Use tools to make the time you spend sifting and looking for information as short and convenient as possible.

Still clicking through a bunch of bookmarks to look at stuff? Dude. UR Doin’ It Wrong.  You can have information delivered to you!

Many of my readers already know this, but I find that when I start talking about “RSS feeds” to my medium to low-tech-savvy friends, eyes tend to glaze over.  So let’s have a very brief review, and then jump into tools I like.

You can even get your comments via feed!XML is basically a type of web language that contains the content of a blog, newspaper, or many other types of media,  stripped of formatting and packaged to be portable. XML feeds are usually indicated with an icon; this orange RSS one is the most common.  Here’s the Bug Blog Feed, for example.  Because of this packaging, you can have news, blog posts and comments, or journal Table of Contents ported into a web application or emailed to you at your convenience.

Personally, I try to avoid having emails sent, because it not only further clutters my inbox, but it is delivered to me when it’s convenient for the publisher, not me.  Then it sits there in the inbox.  J’accuse! You have not done your reading!

Email is such a bastard sometimes.

4.4. Sometimes being a tool is a good thing.

Here are my favorite tools to automate my reading; most of them work on a “dashboard” model that allows you to arrange your feeds into groups, and even play a little with colors.  The key here is that I retrieve information when it is convenient for ME. Not when it is published.