Reader Survey Results Part 2: Tips

Two Sundays back, I asked for help managing my Google Reader. I had lots of great suggestions and encouragement from commenters and anonymous survey takers. Several people also asked me to pass the tips I received along, and I’m happy to do so.

Tip #1: Set limits / Prioritize

  • Read blogs in whatever order you choose, but when your allotted time is up, mark everything else as read.
  • Only look at your reader once a day.
  • Put a cap on the number of blogs you let yourself subscribe to.
  • Visit commenters’ blogs first, then favorite blogs, then others, depending on time.

Tip #2: Scan / Sort

  • Scan post titles and read only the posts whose titles suck you in.
  • When you’re short on time, sort through posts, keeping ones you’d like to read in depth as unread. When you have more time, go back and revisit those saved up posts.
  • Skim posts you don’t want to read in depth. If you want to comment, leave a brief comment instead of a response to each aspect of the post.
  • Skip meme posts.

Tip #3: Organize

  • Pull blogs you like to read more frequently out of your lineup and put them in their own folder in your reader.
  • Sort blogs into folders according to how important it is to you that you read them (such as must read daily, enjoy reading but not vital, nice to read if you have extra time).
  • Sort blogs into folders alphabetically. Tackle a different block of the alphabet each day.
  • Create folders based on reading frequency: for instance, a daily folder for blogs you read every day and a weekly folder for blogs you look through on the weekends, when you have more free time.
  • When you unsubscribe, make a note of the blog. It makes unsubscribing easier if you don’t feel like you’re losing track of the blog.

Tip #4: Switch (or Add) Tools

  • Gmail offers an extensive labeling system if you subscribe to blogs via email. Label emails about new posts with things like “must read,” “looks fun,” etc. and get rid of the rest. Prioritize the important labels and save the others for when you have more time.
  • A Firefox plug-in called Brief helps you keep track of how many unread posts await you, among other things.
  • A desktop reader instead of a web-based one can work better for some people.

Tip #5: Be Selective

  • Implement a trial period for new-to-you blogs. Keep them in a separate folder for the duration. If a new blog doesn’t win you over within a month (or the time period you choose), unsubscribe.
  • Cull blogs regularly.
  • Set up a “Probation” folder for blogs that post too often or that you suspect might not be for you.
  • Keep in mind you don’t have to subscribe to a blog to interact with the blogger.

Tip #6: Reset

  • If your reader gets overwhelming, it’s ok to mark everything as read and start over! Sometimes it just has to be done.
  • If you use a folder system, focus on your favorite or daily folder and mark the other folders read when you need to.

Tip #7: Let Go of Guilt!

  • Don’t feel obligated to read/comment on every post in your reader.
  • If reading a certain blog feels like a chore, don’t feel bad about unsubscribing.
  • Don’t feel obligated to subscribe to every blog you encounter.
  • Remember that blogging is supposed to be fun!
  • Keep in mind that other people are often short of time, too, so they’ll understand.

I’d say that’s a pretty good list! I’ve implemented a couple of these strategies already, and I can tell they are helping. One more time, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in my survey!

Did we miss anything?

Join the Conversation


  1. Erin-

    I’m so happy that you’re sharing the results of this survey, especially tips on Google Reader! I write for other blogs in addition to keeping up with book blogs for ETB, that it’s so difficult to read everything that I want to read. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Sure, I’m glad the tips are helpful! I know they’ve helped me, especially when it comes to getting over guilt about not commenting on or visiting every blog I can find.

  2. Handling the GR is such a hard task. I’ve been working on balance in mine for about six months now and I’m finally to the point where I feel I’m okay. Whew!

    1. Congratulations on hitting a nice balance! I’m not there yet, but I’m definitely headed in the right direction.

  3. These are really awesome tips. I found the Tip #1 section particularly helpful. When it comes to returning comments or commenting in general, my head starts spinning, and I don’t know where to start. 🙂

    1. I’m happy to hear they’re useful! I get overwhelmed with commenting, too. I feel like I want to leave everyone a comment every day! Clearly, that’s not feasible, so it’s nice to hear how other people approach the comment issue.

    1. You’re very welcome! I was pleased with and surprised by the variety of tips people offered. I hope some of them work for you!

  4. It seems to me that a lot of these tips are about dealing with the guilt that blogging can engender. Given that a large part of why we blog should surely be to do with enjoyment then anything that helps to ensure that that remains the primary emotion involved has to be a good thing. I shall store these ideas for future use.

    1. That’s a very good point, Annie. I know the guilt thing is a problem for me. Reading everyone’s responses to my survey has shown me that everyone has dealt with blogging guilt at some point and that there are many ways to combat it.

  5. I’m so bad: If I mark a post to be read later, I almost never return to it. I’m far more likely to forget about it and then mark all as read and then remember it several weeks later and be unable to find it again. :/

    1. I’m like that too! Sometimes I open all the blog posts I want to read in separate Firefox tabs, but if I don’t read them right then, they sit around until I finally close the window. But, that system must work for some people!

  6. I had to do some weeding of my book blogs folder in my reader recently. I was following so many that it was overwhelming. I basically went through my reader blog by blog and visited each blog scrolling through posts to see if it seemed like a blog for me or not – getting rid of the “nots”. It took a lot of time, but my google reader is a much friendlier place because of it.

    1. I recently did that as well. I think I still need to thin my GR out a little, but it’s so much better. That’s a good point, that looking through a few weeks worth of a blog’s posts can give you a sense of whether or not the majority of its posts are of interest to you.

    1. Best of luck with the reorganization, Virginie! I hope your GR ends up a happy place to spend time.

  7. When you first started asking about this, I kept thinking that this hasn’t been a problem for me in the past. I wasn’t able to check my Google Reader tomorrow or Sunday night, and was completely overwhelmed when I opened it a minute ago! So thank you for passing along these tips; I’m sure I will employ them over the next few weeks.

    1. I hope the tips are as helpful for you as they’ve been for me! When my GR was regularly hitting 1,000 posts after just a few days off, I knew it was too full. No sense in dreading opening GR after a short break!

  8. A probation period seems a very good idea, I often add a blog thinking that I’ll do that kind of thing but never actually stick to it because I forget when I added a blog and which one it was. I’d like to be better at marking all as read, that’s where most of my guilt comes from.

    1. I’m terrible at marking all as read, too. I’m always afraid I’ll miss something really interesting or important, and I hate giving up! I’ve made a new-to-me folder in my GR and really like the idea of testing out a new blog before fully committing. I, too, start out thinking I’ll keep an eye on a new blog and then promptly forget which one I’m supposed to be keeping an eye on!

  9. These are fantastic tips!! I need to start following some of them. I try to control the time I spend blogging but then it starts to creep back up again and start “falling behind” and feeling overwhelmed, which is so silly. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I think I need to print these tips out and hang them somewhere prominent! It’s amazing how easy it is to fall behind, isn’t it? I’m going to have to make a regular habit of cleaning out my GR, I think. As everyone keeps pointing out, blogging is supposed to be fun!

    1. They’re a clever bunch, aren’t they? 🙂 I’ve just instated a folder system, and so far, so good. I’m going to have to unsubscribe to something at some point, though, or all my organization will have been for naught! It’s hard to drop a blog, though…who knows when you’ll find it again?

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