Processing Email and RSS Similarly

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.

More-Than-Minute Email

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.

How I Work

Inspired by a few different similar articles lately, I thought it might be interesting to compile an article with the various tools I use to manage my (digital) life. I frequently get inquiries as to how I juggle various jobs and projects; perhaps this will help provide some insight into the tools I employ to assist me.

As I started to write such an article, I realized it was going to get a bit long to be one post (John Siracusa I’m not). Hence you’ll see a series of articles over the coming week. I forsee articles discussion how I work and manage:

  • Consumption of written information (blogs, news, etc)
  • Production of written information (blogging, email, social media, etc)
  • Capture, processing, and sharing of photography
  • General productivity tools (tasks and other timesavers)

The first of these articles will be published Monday morning. Check back; I hope I can provide some interesting information and perhaps share something useful.

Other People Said Interesting Things: July 23rd

As I wander the web I find interesting things. I share:

What have you seen lately that’s interesting?

Other People Said Interesting Things: June 6th

As I wander the web I find interesting things. I share:

  • Why OmniFocus?
    Evernote guru Brett Kelly explains why he uses OmniFocus for task management rather than keep his todo list in Evernote. Summary: use the tool that's most appropriate for the job.
  • Going Paper-Free for $220
    A system to automate going paper-free. Includes a scanner as well as a couple pieces of software.
  • Seal Teams
    Photographer Joe McNally shares a set of images he created while photographing the Navy SEAL "Hell Week" training. Great images; great story.
  • WordCamp San Francisco Call for Speakers
    I have yet to make it down to the biggest WordCamp, but if you're interested in speaking, they're looking…
  • Facebook comments should make Columbian.com friendlier
    The Columbian switches to Facebook-only comments. The article itself isn't too groundbreaking but it's interesting to read the first reactions in the comments.

What have you seen lately that’s interesting?