How to read 300+ blogs a day and still have time to implement new creative ideas
The average person consumes 34 gigs of data and more than 100,000 words every single day.
Considering the average twitter length is 81 characters, roughly 16 words, that is the equivalent of reading 6250 tweets in their entirety every single day.
With so much data overwhelming us everyday; how can one possible read and digest the information that is most important to them?
Every day, I examine more than 300 blogs and pull information from thousands of sources to keep up with what is important to me.
This task takes less than an hour.
One thing I’ve been forced to learn over the years is how to manage thousands of incoming messages each week, and still have time to work. This same discipline can be applied to your industry content so that you can absorb what is necessary each day.
In this blog post; I’ll walk through how I consume content each day to keep up with emerging trends and industry best practices.
iGoogle & Wake-up Coffee
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is grab a cup of coffee. The second thing is turn to my iGoogle page.
When you first wake up, many of our cognitive skills are not yet fully functioning. So, I do not immediately turn to reading in-depth testing procedures; but instead look at content I find both interesting and useful.
For myself, my first iGoogle page is full of tech news. I’m a tech news junky; and blogs such as Smashing Magazine and Tech Dirt not only fuel my need for interesting content to jump-start my brain; but also contain content that I find both useful and interesting. Using aggregators such as Techmeme to find content, you can have access to thousands of news sources – yet let someone else do the hard part.
The trick when you first wake up is to find content that will help you start thinking; but is not so in-depth or important that if you miss it or do not comprehend everything that it will affect your life. This first page of 15 feeds takes ten to fifteen minutes to absorb. The first cup of coffee is complete and it’s time to move to stage two.
iGoogle & Your Industry News
There is more to news than iGoogle; but iGoogle gives you a quick glance at your news which you can’t get with blog readers. Therefore, my second cup of coffee and day starts with another tab that is focused on search marketing news.
I also have many blogs that I read related to search marketing; so this first glance is to see if there are any major announcements or articles that inspire what you might wish to do that day. While I always have a running to-do list; there are some articles that are so inspiring you might want to implement the ideas (or add them to your to-do list) before you move to the rest of your day. This takes ten to fifteen minutes to scan and read (and for me; often contains a visit to Webmaster World as well). Again, use aggregators such as Sphinn to absorb content that others have found and is relevant to you.
For you, find the news that’s related to your industry or places that you will find inspiration of new ideas and directions.
The second cup of coffee is complete; the brain’s cognitive skills are now functioning; so it’s time to absorb some real news – 200 blogs in 30 minutes.
Your Feed Reader
Google reader happens to be my favorite feed reader; however, feel free to pick your favorite as most readers follow the same rules.
You can organize feeds into folders.
Folders are displayed in alphabetical order.
The biggest mistake you can make is to subscribe to 300 blogs and not have them classified into folders.
The first folder I have is called 1MarkRead. It’s displayed at the top of the reader list and contains about 75% of all the blogs I subscribe to. This folder is for the blogs where you want to glance at the headlines and if something catches your eye; open up the post and read it, but if nothing catches your eye – then you want to put them behind you and move on.
When you have scrolled to the bottom of the list; click the ‘mark all read’ button. For me, this folder contains two to three hundred new posts each day; and it takes about 10 minutes to go through. This way you can find the most important headlines each day without being bogged down by thinking you are missing something.
Next I have the 1SearchCap folder which I’ll come back to later.
Because everything is in alphabetical order, I preface each folder with a ‘b’ so that it comes after the 1MarkRead folder, but before any random tags and other folders.
Each day, I look closely at the bPPC folder as I’m mostly involved in PPC. However, choose one folder that is your most important industry news that you want to look at closely. While you might use the ‘mark all read button’; you’ll know when glancing through this folder that you want to be more judicious about checking the contents of the posts than the 1MarkRead folder.
Finally, each day I choose one or two other folders to glance through. Some days its SEO, other days it’s local search, etc. I don’t examine all of these each day; but over the course of the week I’ll get through each folder. For these folders, I want to glance at the headlines closer than the 1MarkRead folder, but less than the bPPC (or your industry) folder.
By grouping the information together, your brain has an easier time processing the information. You aren’t constantly skipping from analytics to SEO; you can silo things. In addition, it’s common to see a big announcement made; but the major blogs take one to three days to write about the information. By only looking through these other folders once or twice a week, you can easily find multiple viewpoints or arguments and counterarguments to these announcements in a single glance.
Generally, by this time I’ve spent forty-five minutes to an hou
r absorbing the most important concept and it’s time to go to work.
If you found inspiration during your reading (and if you’re not; you might want to revisit what you’re reading) then you want to implement those ideas – will your schedule allow it?
Maker vs Manager Schedules
There are two types of schedules that most people follow.
Writers, designers, programmers, and creative people do not like a fixed schedule. They like to set aside several hours at a time to be creative and get their job done. Meetings can destroy their schedules.
If you are interrupted, it can take 20-25 minutes to get back to your previous productivity level. If you are interrupted just twice in an hour (the average is 8 times per hour); you have basically worked twenty solid minutes in that hour.
Managers are executives, the bosses, and their lives are often controlled by their calendar or blackberry and they live their lives in thirty to sixty minute meeting intervals. As these individuals are usually checking in and directing the Makers, they are generally the interrupters.
However, you need both types of individuals for a business to succeed.
What is you’re both?
Many small business owners in the internet marketing arena are makers; but as they are business owners they also have to be managers. I happen to fall into this category as I’m a creative person who owns a company and many web properties.
Therefore, in the morning (most people’s most productive time) I stick to a maker’s schedule. No meetings allowed until after lunch; and often 2pm. That way I can implement what I learned (or was inspired to create) by the blogs I read and put it into practice. However, as most people’s creativity wanes during the day; by the afternoon I’m open to meetings and phone calls.
During the day, you will come across interesting news that you want to read; but can’t read it at that moment. This is where Instapaper can be helpful. Instapaper is a simple tool to save pages you wish to read later. Instapaper supports RSS feeds, which means you can add your feed to Google Reader. If you’re surfing the web, or see an article that you wish to read but do not have time, save it to instapaper and then when you read your feed reader those same pages will be waiting for you so that you don’t miss them.
Reinforcing the News at a Later Date
Earlier, I skipped a very important folder in the blog reader called 1SearchCap.
Most news is sensationalistic. This makes for great headlines and page views, but often does not inspire productivity – in fact it does the opposite – it inspires gossip or conversations that take time but lead to no meaningful results.
Because of this fact, and that I scan a lot of headlines and do not read them; I need to revisit the news at a later time to see if I missed anything that was truly important.
My favorite SEM daily roundup is Search Cap. Find your favorite daily news roundup site and subscribe to it. The reason I like SearchCap is that it aggregates news from around the web; even on competitor sites; and does not just showcase their own news.
Then, do not read it the day it comes out – wait.
I usually wait about 2-3 weeks after the publication date to read Search Cap. Why? The day it comes out just means the news is new – it does not mean the news is meaningful.
I read it a few weeks later to see if there are headlines or announcements that I’ve heard more than a few times over the past few weeks. If yes, and I skipped over the news when it first came out; then I can quickly read that particular news piece. If the articles have faded and were more fluff than substance; then I can again skip over them.
By using this method, you do not have to worry about missing an item when you are scanning your news the day it occurs. That puts too much pressure on people to not miss anything and ends up wasting time by reading more information that is necessary. By knowing that if you miss something you’ll have a second chance to catch it; you can focus on the most important news to you.
On Friday afternoons the phone stops ringing and email volume drops significantly – that’s a perfect time to read Search Cap. If you leave the office at 5pm, and by 4pm you really are done for the day but you can’t leave yet – that’s a perfect time to read Search Cap. If you just need a break from working; check in on Search Cap. There isn’t a set time to read it – when you need a fifteen minute break; then catch up on the older news.
Working smartly is more important than working hard
Working hard on the wrong thing is a waste of time. Working smartly on the correct thing makes you more productive.
The trick is not to read every blog post every day – that’s impossible.
You are going to consume 100,000 words and 34 gigs of data a day. No one can remember that much information.
By being strategic with your news absorption, you can read and spend time with the news that is important to you; and even more crucial – have a chance to implement what you spent time learning.