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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.

More by this author

50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time How to Live on a Tight Budget Top 10 Ways to Use del.icio.us Top 20 Free Applications to Increase Your Productivity 101 Steps to Becoming a Better Blogger

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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