This guest post is by Timo Kiander of Productivesuperdad.com.
Let me ask you this: how many RSS subscriptions do you have?
20? 50? 100? 250?
I figured that the number you follow would be quite high. I used to follow almost 90 blogs through RSS.
However, there is one big pain that I experienced: although these blogs were very interesting and I read the blog posts, I was pretty much wasting my time.
Ultimately, I couldn’t find any justification for reading these particular blog posts, because the activity took away from my already limited time for building my blog (I have a day job, a family, and I’m an athlete). Because of this realization, I had to start really making the most of a blog post if I decided to read it.
You see, just reading a blog post is very inefficient. When you read a post, you are pretty much taking that time away from something else of value—like writing a guest post or engaging with your email subscribers.
What also tends to happen is that you keep doing this inefficient activity day in, day out: you spot an interesting blog post title through RSS, you read it, you leave a comment or share it, you pick another post on your RSS feed, and you follow the same pattern again.
Wouldn’t you be better off if those posts actually did something good for you, like improve your business or yourself, on a very concrete level?
Admit it: you are sleeping!
Now, I don’t know you personally, but if you follow the pattern I just described, then you are not awake—at least when it comes to reading blog posts. This happened to me too, before I decided to change my habits.
You see, you have become addicted to interesting content—and there’s nothing wrong with that when you first start.
However, this “sleeping” leads to bigger problems, like wasting time, overwhelming yourself unnecessarily, or procrastinating on important tasks.
When you subscribe to dozens or even hundreds or RSS feeds and start numbly consuming the content, you soon start to wonder where your time went, why you didn’t manage to work on that important project, or why the blog post you are reading seems to be more interesting than actually writing that killer blog post of your own.
Yet another bad habit to break
Most of us are doing the blog post reading ritual on auto-pilot; we just keep reading and consuming information out of habit. But do you see the piece that’s missing from this picture?
How many times did you just read something, think to yourself: “That was nice” and then move on to the next post? I don’t know about you, but this happened to me countless times. Eventually I became aware that this way of consuming information was just plain silly.
Now, not all blog posts request you to take action, nor do they inspire you to act. However, there are lots of posts which demand your execution.
The question is: are you willing to take action?
Move from passive observer to action-taker
Before putting you on the information diet, let’s clean your RSS reader first.
Unsubscribe from RSS feeds ruthlessly. You don’t read that many blogs after all, so don’t clutter your RSS reader with subscriptions that do not add any value to you.
Also, the next time you read a post, start taking notes; jot down some interesting ideas that the post sparked in you. In addition, take a note of all the action points that a post includes (or the additional ones you came up with as you were reading).
From now on, take action on posts; don’t just read them! You can also take action by creating a case study out of what the post is teaching you.
Passive reading is still okay, but only if you do it less than active reading.
Stop just reading those posts!
- Take a very critical look at your subscribed RSS feeds: Do you honestly think that you need to follow hundreds of blogs? Apply the80/20 rule: Out of those 100 subscriptions, leave only 20 that you currently check on a regular basis. If you have more than 100 blogs in your RSS reader, increase the ratio even more—to 75/15, 90/10, or to 95/5 if needed.
- Read the post and take some notes: Jot down interesting ideas that you get from the post (for example, topics for your own blog posts).
- Implement what has been taught: Now, there is one thing to be aware of: if you are reading a list post which says “101 ways to raise a chicken”, don’t be overwhelmed—there is no need to take action on those 101 items at once. You can try one or two methods at first and then decide if the rest of the tips are worth following. The most important thing is that you take action and implement the lessons—no matter if it is only on one or two items on that 101 item list.
- To get even more value from a post, create a case study out of it: This is actually part of the previous step (#3), but I wanted to list it separately. This is something that I originally learned from internet marketer Terry Dean. For instance, if a blogger is saying that using a particular method you can achieve certain results, actually prove it by creating a case study. Create a report on how that method actually helped you to achieve something. Even better, you can offer this case study as a guest post for the blogger on his or her blog.
- Change your passive/active ratio: Create a habit of taking action on most posts you read and spend less time on reading passively. For example, you could decide that for 70% of the posts you read on a weekly basis, you will take action on what’s being taught. The idea is to keep the amount of active days higher than the passive days. This ensures that you truly develop your skills and gain more experiences on the topic you have chosen.
Change the way you read
So there you have it—an actionable way to consume blog posts. It is very easy to fall into the passive mode and just consume posts without taking any action on them. Once you actually start to implement what has been taught, you will learn new ways of getting things done, and sometimes your business—or your life—could improve dramatically!
Over to you: do you take action on the posts you read? What type of action do you take? Please share your ideas and experiences on the comments.
Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. If you want to get more productive in your own life, grab 222 of his best Tips for Becoming a Productivity Superstar.
Auwch, you just hit me at the right place. True story and so me. Time to clean my rss reader even more and start reading less, taking more action.
Great to hear this article helped you :)
Thanks for the great post – and the wake-up call. I periodically go through and purge my RSS feed. The blogs that aren’t feeding me great, useful, amazing content get deleted. But I realize that I’m not making the most of the ones I keep there, which are top-notch and full of great ideas. I often star then or save them to Evernote for “later,” when I’ll theoretically go back and implement some of those ideas. But I rarely find later.
I like this concept. Read, then do, immediately.
Thanks. I think you made good on your post title, at least for me. :)
Thank you Annie!
Yup, it is very easy to postpone the action part for later.
I have realized that acting immediately works the best and that I actually get something done too :)
I like the idea to create a case study for audience, this approach must help as it comes from real exprience and step by step to help readers archive their goal, and also publish strong authority,even leader guru in the field .
Sure. Even though the case study option requires more work, it actually tests the theories and whether they work for you or not.
Great information! I am working through each of your posts one by one and am getting so much out of them! There is always a call to action and I am implementing much of the information I have found. I am a rookie blogger… but i have high hopes for myself as I read through your posts. Thank you so much.
Thank you Heidi!
That’s really awesome to hear!
…another note…I have to admit I do not know too much about rss feeds….i’m hoping I will find a post on your site about them so I can learn the benefit of them to me as a blogger…not only a reader!
You are right , but with so much information to take in it is hard to stop reading and start actioning.
Yes, I know. That’s the reason why I started limiting my information input :)
I keep a Google Doc of great ideas I discover through my RSS subscriptions which are often a launch point for an article for my own blog.
That sounds great! Blog posts are one way to generate more topics to write about.
I really like the idea of taking notes, and to be honest am not at all sure why I never have. I keep a “to do” list and notebook beside me all day jotting down my own ideas, just never other peoples! :)
It’s a great way to record your own thoughts and generate couple of ideas at the same time.
Just great, especially this title “Stop just reading those posts!”
Thank you Tomaz!
Yes sir i will change the way of reading blog. i totally agree.
Cool, that is great to hear!
You moved me to the immediate action, Timo: I cleaned my RSS subscriptions, but made a sorted list of the blogs that I cut out. In some way, I Was interested in their content, though not in their promotions. Now I will just scan through their websites and headlines when I have extra-extra time.
Another positive result from this post, is that I, as an author, will think ten times, instead of twice earlier, before posting something. Or my RSS will be cut out as well :)
That is great to hear Olga!
In fact, what you did was exactly what I was talking about on my post: taking action :)
Yes sir, information overload is a huge issue with bloggers. I’ve cut my RSS to the top 5. I also eliminated 70% of my Facebook friends. Cutting out time-wasters is big for Internet marketers.
Awesome to hear that!
I think that hardest part is just to do it. Once you have cleaned your subscriptions, you feel lighter inside too :)
It’s funny that just this morning I thought that I need to reduce the number of blogs I read Just too much reading with too little action. Thanks for these great tips! The change starts now!
Well, my post had the right timing then :)
Glad to hear that I was able to initiate a change in you!
Starting to remove feeds from reader..
Nice read, but I have my RSS feed organized by folders. I am a music blogger so having a ton of sites in my RSS feed makes it more of a database for me.
But I like the idea of taking notes and trying to implement the things you have learned. Because I do read a lot and I walk away without implementing things that I have read.
Sure, the most important thing is to take action – to apply what you have learned.
You’re right! I can’t behave myself whenever I open my feed reader. There’s always a lot of good stuff that will always attract my attention. I end up spending more time surfing and reading rather than updating my own blog. I need to work on this. Thanks for the advice.
You are right. There is a lot of great stuff out there. Yet, taking action on it is the only way to learn new stuff or improve your existing skills.
I agree. What we need is action, not just consume tons of information.
True Dudi, I agree!
I agree with this, but I like to subscribe to many other blogs in my niche so I see what everyone else is up to. Still, I like the idea of narrowing my reading down a bit. Maybe a folder for the 20% of blogs I actively read and another folder for the 80% of blogs I skim.
Will have to try doing a case study of a post soon!
Elan, that’s what I have – a folder for the ones I pay attention to, and another one for stuff that I want to have there but don’t necessarily spend a lot of time on each week.
Looking forward to see that case study!
What should I do if I do round-ups as a part of my blog? My reading process is a little ruthless, with me opening twenty to thirty tabs at once, closing down all the ones that go over my head, and reading through only five or so?
I don’t think you need to get rid of subscriptions, as the 20% that you pay attention to can change from week to week, depending on your current situation and the specific content on the blogs.
Read ruthlessly, but don’t unsubscribe – unless you’ve just let your reader get out of hand and there are things you don’t EVER read!
That really changed my way of consuming content. I will attempt to use this formula in the near future. I think I must start using 80/20 rule as well.
Great to hear Ismo!
I know that cutting those extra feeds is not the easiest thing to do. However, after the cleanup, you will feel so much more focused than before.
Thanks for that post. I think you read my mind. I just recently went through my Google Reader and unsubscribed from an almost infinite number of blogs. But, yes, I try my best to implement effective strategies in my business right away.
Great to hear that Freddy!
You took action already – that’s awesome!
On one hand… I agree. I just pared down my RSS subscription list from 191 to 90, and that has freed up both time and guilt. But… is there nothing to be said for reading what other people are writing for the pure pleasure of reading it?
I know what you mean. Sometimes it is fun to check out what others are doing – without taking any action.
Reading for pleasure has it’s place too. In fact, that is a great way to balance the way you consume the information.
On the other hand, I have also experienced that too much reading is also consuming too much of my time (and makes my RSS reader too cluttered).
Well this sounds great but I like another reader said like to see what others are doing. So most of my blog reads come into my google reader and I have them grouped into different categories. I open the categories and pick and choose either by title or preview which posts I will read. This varies usually on my interest at the time and affords me the time I need
Yes, there is a benefit for reading the posts too.
However, because of the time constraints, I try to act on the posts I read. That way I get the maximum benefit of them.
Awesome article! Great way to call people out on the so-called “numbing” activity that too many people do each day.
Though, on the flip side, I might not have found this post if I didn’t keep my eyes out and scan my RSS feeds fairly diligently :)
Thank you :)
Sure … that is a great point :)
Timely…I’ve been trying to figure out a more efficient system for blog reading/following. I subscribe to a bunch but end up skimming through them instead of getting more out of them!
It seems that our RSS subscription list is growing and growing all the time unless we take some time and clean it a bit.
That way you can focus better on the blogs that truly bring you the greatest value in whatever you do.
Timo, I started following your suggestions quite a while ago. I’m also a dad and full-time worker that really has a couple hours each night (if I’m lucky) to work on my blogging. I realized early on that no matter how much great information there was out there, I really didn’t have time to read it all. So, I started focusing on my eBook writing and consulting while spending a few minutes each weekend reading posts and responding. I also cut away any random blogs that I really didn’t read often.
The result: 95% of my time is spent on writing articles, guest posts, and eBooks and consulting. It also keeps me from running helter skelter after every tip and suggestion I read. My work is more concentrated and, ultimately, productive.
Thanks for that post.
That’s really awesome to hear! You are definitely focusing on the right stuff here!
That is definitely one of the benefits when you clear out your RSS list: you have more time to focus on things that bring you the greatest results.
Sorry but your claim “this will change the way you read blogs” is only applicable for a very specific type of blog content. I am reading a lot of blog posts about foreign policy and there is simply no way to “Implement what has been taught” or “To get even more value from a post, create a case study out of it”…
What about applying the information in your work, is that possible?
It’s interesting that you say this and I’m reading it now. Just about a week ago, I changed my iGoogle page which I had loaded with blogs I like to read as my home page when I sign into my computer.
I decided I was reading way to many articles and not doing anything constructive or productive. I now simply have a new tab page load so I will not be tempted to read so much and start working on something of more substance.
You are moving towards the right direction here, that’s great to hear!
I feel much better now–I went through a few weeks ago and trimmed my RSS feeds to about 25 (down from a 100 or so) for all the reasons you listed. I felt a little guilty removing such great blogs. However it was a good reminder that if I was cutting back, others might be cutting back too so I should be making every effort to stay on my readers’ “keep list.”
Thank you Kacey!
Sure, it is not easy to do the trimming – I agree.
However, I have realized that once I do it, it will pinch me only once and I pretty soon forget the whole thing.
Great advice, Timo. I try to do this on a regular basis to cut out the clutter. It is very easy to get yourself into a routine where you simply consume information. In many cases, you outgrow the source; in others, the value proposition changes. Either way, it is a good habit to cut out those blogs that are eating up your extremely valuable time.
Thank you Joshua!
Doing the trimming on a regular basis is the only way to make sure you keep your list in a reasonable size.
I have been reading a lot of blog posts too.. and it would be difficult to eliminate any of them. I find it interesting to implement the take actions on each blog posts though. Thank you for writing this post, Timo.
Great! Just start out bit-by-bit and see how it turns out.
Super post Timo, because what you know is useless until you use it!
I read a few blog posts a day. I intend to use what I can use right now. If I find little value in a post I stop reading immediately. Effective acts count most.
Thank you Ryan :)
That’s the way I consume blog posts too: if I don’t find it valuable, I stop reading it.
I have 277 blogs I”m subscribed too. I have little problem with them overwhelming me.
Once or twice a day I skim through the day’s posts, click on the ones that seem interesting and comment and/or tweet them. But it’s a skim, there are a few blogs I save for careful reading- Danielle La Porte, Zenhabits, problogger … and even some of them are skips based on the headline. Headlines are really everything in this busy world.
Headlines are important. That’s the determining factor when I decide to check out a post or not.
I enjoyed this post. I don’t have the heart to delete subscriptions but I will divide into two folders, and ’80’ for the less useful but fun to read stuff, and a ’20’ for the stuff I will take action on. I really like the advice to actively use blog posts. Thank you!
Thank you Richard!
I like your way of having separate folders for different types of blogs.
Thanks for the tip :)
Fantastic post. I’ve been reading a lot on time management recently and how to be more smart with the time I have available each day. This is one thing I hadn’t thought of and will assist me greatly in my goal. Keep up the good work. Ahmed
Thank you :)
Great to hear that I was able to give you valuable advice!
Thanks! Out with the time wasting. In with ACTION. Love your point that you don’t have to take action on all 101 tips in a post, and that just 2 will do. Also it’s prompted me to write down some ideas of posts that inspire action instead of idle thought.
You don’t have to go overboard when taking action :) Start out small and the see how it turns out.
Thanks for a great read, Timo.
I think I’m a little different as I only have 2 blogs in my RSS feed – and they’re there so I could check they’re working etc as they are ones I write! I actually find blog posts to read via Twitter – I look at what is said about a post by someone I respect and then decide if it is worth a look. It keeps the variety and weeds out a lot of junk for me. Blogs I really like I bookmark so I can go back when I choose to spend time reading.
Sometimes when I open a post I can see its worthwhile but don’t read it then because I know I won’t read it properly or action it. Problem is I don’t always get back to them! Well, problem in that I don’t read it but blessing in that I keep that time for other things.
I do note blog post ideas I get whilst reading but don’t often take notes from blog psots – good idea I think I will start tomorrow!
Thank you :)
Also, thanks for sharing your way of consuming blog content :)
My rule of thumb is, I keep to those blogs that I actually read. If I find that I skim the content rather than read it properly, it isn’t holding my attention. I allow a few weeks before I delete, because I never judge on one post only.
I did start this from the beginning, so my list has never grown out of control. It could be difficult trying to remember which blogs are on your potential delete list if you subscribe to loads, though.
That is a great rule Carolyn.
I love the way you keep the subscriptions in control :)
“If you have more than 100 blogs in your RSS reader, increase the ratio even more—to 75/15”
I think there is an error (75 +15 = 90). There should be 85.
Is it possible that the Russian blogger wrote a guest post for your blog?
True, you caught me :) It should have been 85/15.
Your post is dead on.
I don’t read anything through an RSS feed but I do subscribe to EVERYTHING. Sometimes because I like one or two posts, and sometimes to get the “freebie” for subscribing (which I seldom read).
Soon I had so many posts in my inbox every day that I could easily procrastinate for hours while pretending to work by reading blog after blog. They blurred together and I couldn’t tell you which ones I got value out of and which I didn’t.
I dealt with it by creating a “Crap” folder in my email and every post that was spammy or pointless got dropped in that folder. After a couple months I opened the folder and unsubscribed from every blog that had 3 or more emails in the folder. I also unsubscribed from every blog that had more unopened emails in my inbox than opened ones.
I need to do that again. Thanks for the timely reminder.
Thank you Heather :)
Thanks for sharing your way of handling the the subscriptions … I gotta try that myself :)
As a matter of fact, sometimes I do feel the same way. After reading a post from one of my RSS or email subscriptions, I end up as what this article gave new information to me. Even though it was not a new one, it would definitely be inspirational.
Implementation of all might not be possible from what a post is providing. But, choosing the best option in partial manner what best suits your capacity would be rational like the one Timo told about 101 to raise a chicken.
Sure … just take small action steps and see how it works out.
I’ve never had more than 10 blogs on my RSS feed.
Also, any blog I read solely for entertainment, I do not include on my RSS feed.
I figure if it’s just an entertaining diversion, I’ll find a way to check for the updates.
RSS, for me, is about keeping up with important information.
Hence, I only read pieces from my RSS feed if they address a topic I want specifically to know about, or that looks promising.
Great to hear that you have a solid way of dealing with RSS.
Thanks for sharing :)
I am more of a twitter user. I use it as my RSS now. I have just found that twitter is so much easier to keep up to date, and it doesn’t take very long at all. You can browse right through the things that you don’t quite care for, and dig deeper into the ones that you do. I have found that most sites I want to follow just happen to have twitter, too. How lucky?
True. I have found many interesting sites through Twitter too.
Thanks for the reminder :)
As soon as you got to the 101 chicken raising idea I had to laugh. I’ve checked out the book at the library on keeping chickens and urban gardening more times than I want to count. Very good advice. The key is to crap and then get off the pot.
Sure Scott :)
Great that I was able to give you a laugh :)
seriously u make me think for a while .. that point is true that i am not awake while reading the posts hahah .. very nice points…
Thank you Deepak!
Great to hear I was able to give you some ideas to think of :)
Gave me an excellent excuse to clean out my RSS Reader… to much in there that I do NOT read or do anything with… (but I’m keeping problogger!)
Awesome to hear that!
Great that I was able to help you :)
Thank you for the great suggestions! I especially appreciate the ones regarding taking notes, implementing ideas, creating case studies and changing the active to passive ratio. On a side note, while reading your post, I realized I have been doing a poor job of reading and commenting on blog posts made by the people I most often interact with on Twitter. I’m adding that to my “To-Do” list as well. :-)
Good to hear that!
Nice to learn that this information was valuable for you! :)
Ironically enough, this article came through on a round-up post from a blog I just subscribed to, as part of my exploration to see if I want to continue reading the blog.
Fewer subscriptions certainly help. Focusing on posts that provide actionable content helps too.
So does the right attitude. Check out the Zen Habits article “Beating the Anxiety of Online Reading” at http://zenhabits.net/online-reading/ for the River Flow philosophy of reading.
And use decision rules to decide if, when and how to read articles. More about this in “How To Make Reading a Conscious Decision” at http://leandecisions.com/2012/07/how-to-make-reading-a-conscious-decision.html .
Finally: Finish what you started doesn’t apply to reading. If halfway through you discover an article is providing no value, stop reading. Or at least switch to scanning the rest.