One of the problems that RSS newbies often encounter is treating RSS items like email and expecting that each item needs to be read. A recent Ars Technica article explores the notion that keeping up with RSS is a bad idea. I’m not going to suggest exactly how much information you should take in, but I find that I process email and RSS in a similar fashion which seems loosely based on David Allen’s two-minute rule for email processing.
One-Minute Email & RSS
As I scan my inbox or incoming RSS feeds (with RSS feeds being scanned in a priority-based order), I quickly deal with any that I can take care of in a minute or two. This includes reading short email messages or crafting quick (one paragraph) responses. On the RSS side, it means skimming headlines and reading short articles that won’t take more than a minute of my time. For anything that requires more than a minute (either reading or replying), I send it elsewhere and move on.
My method for email that requires a longer read or response is to star the item in Gmail for later processing. After an item is starred, it moves to its own section in Gmail’s priority inbox so it’s easy to find and work through these items. I have a task in OmniFocus that reminds me to process these messages at least once a day.
Reading Longer RSS Items
For longer articles, I send the article to Instapaper (as noted in my recent “how I read” article). The iPad is the perfect device for consuming longer text and I’ll read these articles as I have time on my device of choice. I use Reeder on my iPhone and iPad; sending articles to Instapaper is a simple gesture.
How you process email and RSS isn’t important but you’ll need to find a system that works for you. I’ve found that my system (process the quick things, defer the longer things) works for me.