Using tools like Google Reader or Twitter it can become pretty compulsive to read everything. If you use iTunes and subscribe to lots of podcasts you can feel you need to listen to them all.
The more RSS feeds you subscribe to, or the more people you follow on Twitter, the larger the number of those unread messages becomes… Likewise with a lot of podcast subscriptions you can find the number of podcasts you have not listened to growing…
Then after a while you feel you are not coping or those unread feeds and Tweets are always there…
The number also gets larger… and larger…
You start to set yourself targets, you will read all your feeds by Sunday night! You will catch up with Twitter over dinner!
You go away to a conference or on holiday and when you get back the list is even bigger!
Eventually it will reach the point that you have to give up. Then you mark all as read and start again down this downward spiral.
Is this a wise course of action?
Of course no it isn’t.
The key in my opinion dealing with tools like Twitter and Google Reader is to rethink them as streams of information rather than as an email inbox.
In the same way that you don’t watch every TV channel or even watch ALL of your favourite TV channel.
Or reading the weekend paper, you don’t attempt to read every article in every section. Likewise if you didn’t read the paper yesterday, do you read it before you read today’s paper?
Or continually listening to Radio 4 all day long… well I know some people who do that, but you know what I mean!
It doesn’t matter that you don’t read every Tweet posted. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t manage to catch every article in your newsfeed. So what if you miss a podcast?
What is the worse that could happen?
Well yes something bad could happen, but not very likely! But every day because you didn’t read all the Tweets in your Twitter stream, something bad would happen, no I don’t think so.
To be honest nothing bad is going to happen.
So what if you miss an exciting blog post on a subject you care about?
Does it really matter that you missed out on an interesting conversation on Twitter about PLEs?
The thing is you miss stuff all the time outside RSS and Twitter. More often than not, the good stuff resurfaces again and again (well it certainly does on services like Digg).
You need to treat Google Reader, Twitter and iTunes all in the same way. When you have time dip into the Twitter stream. Allocate time during the day To peruse your aggregated feeds in your newsreader. Listen to the most recent podcast, not the one from three weeks ago.
This is a much easier way to manage the huge amount of information that comes into our lives. Yes you will miss stuff, but the stuff you don’t will not be rushed, it will be perused with care and attention not just glanced over because you need to ensure that all your articles in the RSS feed are read.
It’s never about all the stuff it’s about the right stuff.
Now should we talk about e-mail?