For those of us hungry for information, the Internet is like a vast candy store full of free samples. Blogs to delight in, news reports to ponder, and tips to digest on how to be a more effective businessperson or writer or professional. You name it, and an article—multiple articles—on any topic can be found. Every day new information is being published for our viewing pleasure.
Unfortunately, all that information can quickly turn into sugar overload. When it comes to online reading, can there be too much of a good thing? We argue only if you don’t have a good system for managing it. Here are a few tips to help you keep your online reading productive and engaging (not overwhelming) and avoid the time sink that can come from trying to stay up-to-date on news and trends.
First, think about what you’re reading.
Use tools designed to help you manage your reading, rather than simply falling into the vast pit of the Internet. My personal favorite is Google Reader, which is a one-stop-shop for reading news and blogs that you choose. It’s kind of like my morning newspaper, but I control the contents.
One of the most important things about Google Reader, though, is proper care and feeding. If you keep adding and adding, you’ll eventually be overwhelmed by it. Be deliberate as you select your favorite feeds and, occasionally, it’s okay to remove one or two if you’re not finding the info useful.
Second, say “I’ll read this later.”
My biggest struggle online is, “okay, I’ll just read one more…” Doesn’t matter if it’s a Wikipedia page, blog entry, or news story, if I’m not careful, I’ll lose an hour link-hopping my way from news about Instagram’s new Terms of Service to the development of new mind-controlled robots. The answer? Put it in my Pocket.
Pocket is a service that works on Apple, Android, and various web platforms. You install it for your service of choice and, when you see something you want to read or watch, you simply click to “put it in your Pocket” and check it out later!
You can even use If This Then That, a really neat web utility for automating simple tasks, to save certain items from your Google Reader to your Pocket. As much as I hate to use the word “synergy,” it’s pretty nice when tools like these work together to increase your productivity!
Third, get a regimen for your online reading.
Set aside specific blocks of time to browse the Internet. Give yourself 20 minutes and a cup of coffee to check out your Google Reader in the morning before you start working for the day. If there’s something especially meaty that you want to check out later, add it to your Pocket.
Need a little help staying on your schedule? If you use Chrome, StayFocusd is the perfect tool for you. It’s a simple extension that allows you to set time limits for specified web sites (and even subdomains) before locking you out for the day. If you need a little extra motivation to stay focused, you can even set up the Nuclear Option, which blocks all but a handful of “allowed” sites.
Use these tools (or create your own) to manage your online reading this year and to enjoy more productivity online—and maybe enjoy more free time offline too.