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10 Smart Hacks for Google Reader

10 Smart Hacks for Google Reader
Google Reader

If you’re like me, then you probably have a serious case of information overload. In today’s web of information, it’s easy to get caught up in the constant news stream. In fact, I have over 50 RSS feeds in my feed reader. Talk about a mental meltdown.

So, what do you do when you wake up to thousands of new items in your feed reader, with hundreds of items which
don’t even interest you? A few smart hacks will enable you to look through all of your favorite feeds in just 30 minutes or less using the power of Google Reader.

Google reader is extremely powerful and has a very clean interface. Google Reader allows you to read your favorite blogs in much the same manner as you would read your email.

Some of it’s many features include tagging, folder-based navigation, Firefox integration and the ability to import and export subscription lists as an OPML file. You can also star items for easy access, share your favorite items, and save your favorite items to del.icio.us.

All of these features have come to make Google Reader a dream machine for the productivity enthusiast.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of Google Reader.

1. Sort your feeds by priority.

Google Reader makes it easy to organize all of your feeds by topic. However, I would also suggest that you categorize
your feeds by priority as well. This way, you know which items are “Must Read” and which items “Can Be Skipped” on days that you’re busy.

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2. Use Keyboard Shortcuts.

You can’t become a Google master without learning the keyboard shortcuts for Google Reader. These little tweaks can save you a good bit of time in the long run.

Some of the most common shortcuts include:

j/k: item down/up
o: open/close item
s: toggle star
m: mark as read/unread
t: tag an item

For a complete list of Google Reader shortcuts, grab this Cheat Sheet

3. Optimize your feed reading time by combining certain feeds into one large master feed.

This can be done using FeedShake. Feedshake allows you to merge, sort, and filter multiple RSS feeds. You can also use filters and tags to create a more customized feed.

For a more advanced solution, you can try Yahoo Pipes. Yahoo Pipes is a very powerful RSS feed remixer that gives you the ability to create web mashups that combine a variety of data from different sources. Yahoo Pipes takes web aggregation to an entirely new level.

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4. Add tags to your feed items.

Google Reader lets you organize all of your feed items by tags. This is one of the best features for those who are
looking to optimize their time.

To add a tag to a post, simply click “add tags” and enter the relevant tags.

5. Search your feed items.

The only feature that I would really like to see in Google Reader that is currently missing is a search feature. Fortunately, there are ways to work around this.

You can use Google Reader Custom Search to search your feeds using Google Co-op inside Google Reader.

6. Star items for future reference.

Google Reader enables you to quickly star items for future reference. This can come in handy for items that you want to refer to later.

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7. Smart Google Reader Subscribe Button

The Smart Google Reader Subscribe Button makes it easy to subscribe to a site’s RSS feed while also letting you know if you’ve already subscribed to that site. If you subscribe to a lot of feeds, this kind of tool is very handy.

Another great way to add RSS feeds on the fly is with the subscribe bookmark. This tool enables you to quickly
subscribe to any site that you find interesting while surfing the web.

To access the subscribe button, click on Settings on the top right-hand corner of the Google Reader interface and
then click on Goodies. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will see detailed instructions on how to use the subscribe bookmark.

8. Use Expanded View.

For optimum productivity, use expanded view. Expanded view makes it very easy to scroll all of your feed items and
scan for interesting posts.

However, I don’t suggest that you simply scroll down the page. You can go from one entry to the next simply by
pressing the “J” key. Whenever you want to go backwards, use the “K” key to return to the previous post.

9. Do a weekly or monthly cleanup.

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Over time, there are certain feeds that you simply don’t read anymore, or read very infrequently.

These feeds should be dumped on a regular basis to keep your feed reader under control.

Google Reader has an excellent feature known as Subscription Trends that keeps track of where you do the majority of your reading. This will help you to quickly identify any feeds
that need to be dumped.

If your subscription trends reveals a feed that is read less than 5%, then it’s probably time to delete it. Fortunately, you can delete any feed directly from the Trends page.

10. Dedicate a certain time of the day for reading your feeds and stick to your allotted times.

If you allow yourself 30 minutes to read through your feeds each day, then stick to it. Believe me, everything will still be there tomorrow.

Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at
The Optimized Life. Read her articles on 50 Essential
GTD Resources, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, Do You Need
a Braindump, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and
Free Yourself From the Inbox.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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