Something I’ve really taken to heart over the last 30 days, is the notion of becoming a better writer by reading more.
There are the obvious benefits of becoming more educated, and a more well-rounded human overall, but my motivation here comes from wanting to create really stellar content for our company blog. That’s the short-term motivation anyway.
About a month ago I started trying to figure out the best system for me to read as much as possible with my already limited amount of time.
- I looked at subscribing to a million email lists and setting up fancy filters - nah, too disruptive
- I thought about using Twitter as my go-to source and setting up twitter lists for the sources I wanted to follow - TOTAL DISASTER
- I even looked at a few apps like FlipBoard and SkyGrid - Closer, but still not quite what I was looking for
So I went to the drawing board and started looking for something that would guide to me good content, but that also gave me full freedom to add whatever I wanted on my own.
This is the workflow I use to read THE ENTIRE INTERNET™ in about 60 minutes per day
Aside: Is it called a workflow if it’s for reading? A ReadFlow? A ConsumptionFlow?
Feedly Is the Firehose
I’ve seen Feedly in the past, but had never spent much quality time with it. For those of you who don’t know, Feedly is essentially an RSS reader on steroids. You can use it like an old fashioned reader of old by pasting in your feed URL, but it’s also really good at detecting an RSS feed when you just start typing in the site you want to get new content from.
Feedly also has hashtags for certain topics, and you can subscribe to entire topics if you’re ready to really dig though some content. I haven’t been quite that brave yet, but maybe someday…
Another pretty cool feature I discovered on Feedly is what they call Curated Collections. It’s basically groups of sites that are curated by internet celebrities. Some of the collections seem very inline with the curators, and some are probably using some really terrible personality algorithm, so proceed with caution before you “Add all”.
I currently have about 100 Feedly subscriptions, which doesn’t sound like too many, but a lot of those sources are publishing as many as 30-40 new pieces of content every day, so I end up sifting through over 500 articles daily. OK, I admit. It isn’t quite the entire internet, but it’s still A LOT of content.
The Sifting Process
Now that I have a mountain of articles to read through, and my time is still super limited, the next thing I do is start sifting through the garbage.
There’s plenty of garbage.
I use a few different factors while working toward getting to the good stuff.
- Relevance - is this topic important to me or my business? Does it sound like something I’ll enjoy reading?
- Timeliness - is this something that matters to me now? Or will it matter to me in 6 months?
- Headlines - I know it probably seems superficial, but headline quality definitely plays a role in whether or not I choose to read an article.
- Popularity - Feedly shows a social share metric in their list view that lets me know if this is something that has resonated with other people like me. Here’s what it looks like.
Anything that can’t get my attention based on those four factors gets deleted. I don’t even skim the first paragraph. It’s dead to me.
I’m sure I’m missing a few hidden gems, but I have to stay vigilant or I’ll never finish in my sixty minute time window.
I save everything else to Pocket. I love Pocket so much. The reading experience is fantastic and I get to save things to reference later (I do this often). Saving to Pocket directly from Feedly does require a pro account, but for under $4 per month I justify it pretty easily.
The key to reading with Pocket is that I can do it in quick sprints throughout the day whenever I have downtime. I read during breakfast on my phone, or at night on my iPad before I go to bed. Or even at my desk while I’m waiting on hold for a conference call.
I read every article I save to Pocket in it’s entirety.
That makes me be extra judicious when I’m choosing what to save, but also gives the authors that I’m reading my full attention. Remember, this is about becoming a better writer, so I’m looking for techniques they’re using to draw in an audience.
Sharing the Best Stuff
There’s one more level of filtering I perform in my daily ReadFlow™ (see what I did there?), and that’s the sharing stage. Of the stuff I have saved to Pocket, there are even fewer things that I share with people, mainly because even a good chunk of what I read isn’t terribly interesting.
I use Buffer for sharing and it’s been fantastic.
For those of you who don’t know, Buffer let’s you schedule sharing content across all the major social channels. I use it primarily for Twitter for my personal stuff, but we started using it at WP Site Care for Facebook and Twitter and have seen some really nice growth, and more importantly, folks are talking with us more than ever before through social.
I used to have reservations about auto-tweeting, and it still kind of weirds me out to see tweets from myself that I’m not writing in the moment, but if I were sharing content only when I was reading, you’d all get way too much of me in small doses and would instantly unfollow. I’m sure most of you are on the edge already.
The real reason I finally coped with auto-sharing is because I realized I didn’t want to be glued to social media 24/7, but I know that people are using it around the clock, so I’d miss making connections if I wasn’t doing some kind of scheduling.
That’s the Whole Recipe
There isn’t a whole lot to it, but it took me quite a while to find something that worked well for me so I figured I’d pass it along.
Reading is FUNdamental and I’ve been doing it without the FUN for quite a while. I’ve finally got something figured out that lets me consume a metric ton of content in a relatively short amount of time, and it feels good.
What are you using for your ReadFlow? Do you have any blogs or websites that I need to be reading?