By August 13, 2012 Read More →

How To Read Blogs More Effectively

Read Blogs Faster

“Thinking about information overload isn’t accurately describing the problem; thinking about filter failure is.” – Clay Shirky

I see people get overwhelmed by blogs.  They try to keep up and they either get burned out or overwhelmed.  I could show them how to read faster, or how to organize information better, but I don’t think that’s the answer.  I could tell them that nobody says they have to keep up, or that they should use timeboxing, or that they should be more judicious in what they subscribe by email versus what they subscribe by RSS.

But I don’t think that would solve the problem – AND — I think there is a higher-level problem.

As Clay Shirky reminds us, it’s not information overload; it’s filter failure.  The problem is we have to choose our blogs.  We ARE the filter.  The good news is that the solution is simple …

Add a strategic lens on top.

You can trim your blogs down by looking through a strategic lens.  You can either scan a bunch of blogs hoping to strike some gold, or you can focus in on the vital few high-value sources that flow the most value to you.  If you trim your list of blogs down to the short set that actually helps you achieve your strategic goals and objectives, you can nip information overload in the bud.

Personally, I like to use a combined strategy, where I organize my blog reading list like a portfolio.  I have a , a short-list of top performers, which I read more regularly, and then a list of everything else, where I read more opportunistically.    In other words, I bubble up a few blogs to my short-list.

I don’t worry about ranking and rating, or even reading all the blogs in my feed reader.  Instead, I simply focus more attention on my short-list.  I like having this combination of my short-list + “everything else”.  My short-list improves my game in a steady and consistent way, while “everything else” periodically surprises me with new insights and actions I can use … or entertains me in ways I just can’t predict.  It’s my personal Lottery for potential “ah-has” and surprises  The thing I remind myself always is that brilliance can bloom or blossom from anywhere (bet on “old reliables”, but don’t take away the power of stumbling on brilliance.)

Here are the steps to read blogs more effectively  …

Step 1 – Identify Your Strategic Objectives

What do you want to achieve?  If you know why you read blogs, you can better choose the ones that serve your purpose.   Strategy guides your tactics, but specifically it helps you decide what you will do more of, and what you will do less of.  And, strategy done well tells you what you won’t do.

Some examples of strategic objectives include:

  1. Develop your professional skills for XYZ.
  2. Improve your health.
  3. Improve your thinking skills.
  4. Learn the latest and greatest on XYZ.
  5. Entertain yourself during your idle time.

You can always get more specific, but first get in the ballpark.  Stating your goals and objectives in a simple way helps you get the ball rolling.  If you get clarity here, you instantly help yourself identify which blogs to focus on.

Step 2 – Build Your Portfolio

Think in terms of an information portfolio.  It helps if we think in terms of the blogs we read as a portfolio.  You’ve got your top performers and you’ve got your laggards … and a wide variety in between.  That’s the beauty of the blogosphere … variety is the true spice of life.

If you want more value, and more effectiveness, then inject more top-performers into your portfolio, and let the laggards naturally slough off.  Here’s how …

Identify Your Short-List
Based on what you want to achieve, list out the top 10 blogs you want to read regularly.  If 10 is too much, then start with 3.   You can always add more.  The key is to choose the blogs that really help you.  I have lists of top blogs if you are looking for potential blogs.

Organize Your Blog Reading List
Bubble up the top blogs you want to read.  Make sure the blogs you really want to read, are at the top in some way.    For example, in Google Reader, you might make a folder called A-List and stick your top blogs in there.
Identify the Types of Info You Want More of

When you know the types of information you want, it’s a lot easier to evaluate your sources of information.  Not all information has the same value.   If you spend a few minutes, you can very quickly identify  which types of information you value and want more of.  This will also help you figure out which blogs you want to spend more time with.

Some examples of information types found on blogs include:

  1. Free professional advice.
  2. Wisdom and adages.
  3. Fortune-cookie advice
  4. Hacks for work, hacks for life.
  5. Stories.
  6. Opinions and experience.
  7. Timeless principles, patterns, and practices. (“Evergreen” advice)
  8. How Tos
  9. News
  10. Game changing ideas

There is no right or wrong answer.  This is simply about identifying the types of information that YOU value.  For example, for me, I like to find the one game-changing idea that I can use now, or use daily, or use over a life-time.   I’m also a fan of timeless principles, patterns, and practices because the time to value is quick, and the payback is often daily, over a lifetime.

Basically, I try to ensure my portfolio provides me with two things:

  1. Simple solutions for today’s problems.
  2. Timeless principles, patterns and practices I can use the rest of my life.

Step 3 – Periodically Review Your Portfolio

Periodically review your portfolio, and make sure that you have your set of top performers.  They are your consistent focal point.

A quick and dirty way to assess the value of blogs is to just use your intuition or your gut.  That’s a good start, but it’s easy to distort the value, too.  If you’ve ever kept a time log, or a food log, or a log of your thoughts, you are well-aware of just how easy it is to forget things, or lose perspective, or simply distort things.

Given how much potential time you might spend on blogs, it’s worth doing a quick check on the value you are getting.  For example, you might pick a few blogs, and make a quick list of their last ten posts each.   Here is an example:

Author Last Ten Blog Posts
Evelyn Lim www.AbundanceTapestry.com

  1. How to Enhance Your Creativity When Making a Vision Board
  2. 15 Ways to Live Life Fully
  3. Why Think About Death For a Life That Matters
  4. 25 Benefits To Having a Vision
  5. Why You Need to Have a Heart-Centered Vision
  6. How to Begin with the End in Mind
  7. Life Vision Mastery Launches
  8. How to Be The Best That You Can Be
  9. Why Vision Boards Fail? Avoid 7 Common Mistakes That Others Make!
  10. 5 Reasons Why You Need to Love What You Do
Michael Hyatt MichaelHyatt.com

  1. Why I Will Be Posting Less
  2. Are you Investing Your Best Resources in the Wrong People?
  3. My Favorite WordPress Plugins: Updated
  4. Why Frequent Trips Outside Your Comfort Zone are So Important
  5. 15 Resources for Pro Bloggers (Or Those Who Want to Be)
  6. The Practice of Stillness
  7. How I Unplugged and Lived to Tell About It
  8. How To Read the Bible and Enjoy It
  9. The Value of Working for a Bad Boss
  10. The 7 Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal
Seth Godin SethGodin.typepad.com/

  1. You won’t benefit from anonymous criticism
  2. Buying the thing your project truly needs
  3. Converting viral traffic
  4. Conservation of anxiety
  5. The best way to be missed when you’re gone
  6. Impresarios
  7. A tacky mess: the masses vs. great design
  8. What’s your average speed?
  9. Analogies, metaphors and your problem
  10. Long-term manipulation is extremely difficult
Steve Pavlina www.StevePavlina.com

  1. Happiness First, Then Everything Else
  2. Branding is Fear-Based B.S.
  3. How to Earn Passive Income From Live Performance Art
  4. Dissolving Limiting Beliefs
  5. RIP Stephen Covey
  6. Free Audio – Why You Aren’t Achieving Your Goals
  7. How to Stop Being Disappointed
  8. Free Audio on Goals, Life Purpose, and Relationships
  9. Investing
  10. The Sedona Method – Free Audio
Tim Ferris www.FourHourWorkWeek.com/blog/

  1. Understanding the Dangers of “Ego-Depletion”
  2. The 4-Hour Chef Media – Announcement
  3. The 4-Hour Chef 8-Second Book Trailer
  4. How I Blog — The 21 WordPress Plugins That Keep Me Sane
  5. Another Unusual $100,000 Birthday Present (Plus: Free Round-Trip
  6. Anywhere in the World)
  7. The 5 Top-Performing American Apparel Ads, and How Thy Get PR for Free (NSFW)
  8. How to Lose 100 Pounds on the Slow-Carb Diet – Real Pics and Stories
  9. A %50,000 Benevolent Bribe: Is Today the Day You Finally Build Your Business?
  10. The Council That Kicked The Hornet’s Nest — Why TODAY Matters for Start-Ups

If you want to get really specific, you could rate each post on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is “Awesome-ness Maximus.”  Another approach is simply to ask yourself, what’s the overall impact on your life or against your goals?   Personally, I like to simply do a quick enumeration of any interesting ideas or new insights that I’ve learned.   I especially like blogs that challenge my thinking and expose me to new ideas, or challenge conventional wisdom.  I also like blogs that dive deep, and surface surprising insights or demonstrate extreme skill.

At the end of the day, what you’re really doing is identifying the benefits.  When you take blog posts in, what are the benefits and value that pop out?   Let me show a simple example, again, using a two-column table for simplicity, where the left-side are the last ten posts, and the right-side, are the key benefits I get.

Example of Benefits from Michael Hyatt’s Last Ten Posts

Last Ten Posts Benefits
  1. Why I Will Be Posting Less
  2. Are you Investing Your Best Resources in the Wrong People?
  3. My Favorite WordPress Plugins: Updated
  4. Why Frequent Trips Outside Your Comfort Zone are So Important
  5. 15 Resources for Pro Bloggers (Or Those Who Want to Be)
  6. The Practice of Stillness
  7. How I Unplugged and Lived to Tell About It
  8. How To Read the Bible and Enjoy It
  9. The Value of Working for a Bad Boss
  10. The 7 Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal
  1. 20 specific things we learn from bad bosses, and how to lead at a higher level.
  2. A behind the scenes look at the tools and platform of MichaelHyatt.com, with specific things I can use to change my game.
  3. Strategies and tactics for blending work and life that actually work.

Notice what happens when I put the posts into the grinder, and I turn the crank.   The posts on the left, pop out some pretty sweep value on the right.  Michael shared some great insights into how bad bosses helped him avoid a lot of mistakes, as well as learn and appreciate better approaches for managing people.

So rather than actually rate the value of each post, you can rate the value of the benefits or value to you.  Every now and then you find a blog that flows such value to you, that the only way to really put it is …

… it’s priceless.

Enjoy your hunt for priceless blogs and fill your portfolio with abundance.

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10 Comments on "How To Read Blogs More Effectively"

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  1. I love your perspective on this, JD. Focusing on your values is a great approach, as is viewing blogs as an information portfolio. Something about the word “portfolio” catches my attention.

    This does make a lot of sense if you consider information overload. When you’re focusing on your values you will feel more easily satisfied and will not feel like you have to seek more information. Most of what you read may be lost if you’re running in circles hunting for more. It does get tiring.

  2. JD says:

    @ Davina — I’m actually wondering what’s next when it comes to information overload.

    The pendulum always swings, and I wonder where it wants to swing next.

    I have seen patterns over time how information gets treated. I need to think more on this. If I just think about some SEO trends, I have noticed that there is more demand for “specific” information vs. “general.”

  3. Catherina Chia says:

    HI JD,
    This is a just in time information for me! I am troubled with information overload and tons of bookmarking of informative website.
    I shall start to practise what you suggested.
    ?Catherina

  4. JD says:

    @ Catherina — There is one other benefit I forgot to mention. When we pick more strategic choices, we actually recharge and renew our energy.

    If you find yourself reading a bunch of stuff that sucks your life force out, it is likely that you are consuming a lot of information that is just not relevant or insightful or actionable enough. When you read more blogs that connect with your values, they lift you, and give you great strength … and that’s a big deal.

  5. Evelyn Lim says:

    Thank you, J.D, for highlighting about my blog.

    It is true. I had found it hard to keep up with following that many blogs. So I select the few topics that I am interested to learn and follow the relevant blog. I also to enjoy going to a blog or two to simply soak in the energy there. In a way, it is the values of the blogger that bring out a certain energy which can be felt through his or her site.

    I like your blog for its practical application of personal development. I have found your tips useful and they also keep me focused. Your tip on values on this particular post is priceless too. Thanks for sharing :-)

  6. Vidya Sury says:

    Priceless post, as always, J.D. It is a fact that with the overload of fantastic blogs out there, we must devise a way to keep on top without the time overload. :-) One blog I just enjoy reading is yours. I usually subscribe via email to the blogs I love and enjoy reading them in my mailbox. And then, of course, there is the commenting which also needs a time investment.

    Thank you for an excellent post!
    Love, Vidya

  7. JD says:

    @ Evelyn — So true — shared values really are the lightening rod. It’s amazing how much the choices, the focus, the topics, and the words express the energy that connects us or repels us … or intrigues us.

    Personal development is saturated, and yet I see so much opportunity to take things to the next level. I do plan to inject more project management and more strategy in the coming months. I think business skills for life, are also a big deal. I think it’s these blends that help work blend with life, and life blend with workd … to where we are simply on a path of personal growth, driving from who we want to be, and creating experiences that we want to create.

    @ Vidya — Thank you.

    I try to stay true to the mission and the vision. I’m actually reimanging my blogging process, and finding ways to tune, improve, and streamline it to flow more value.

    I’ve covered a lot of terrain, but I see many ways to take my game to the next level … it’s a process ;)

  8. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. thankfully I realised very early on – I didn’t need ‘rubbish’ and have filtered .. I do read too many author blogs = blogging friends … somewhere along the line I have to decide where I’m going and how etc .. that time is now here.

    My mind is filtering and sifting, but as yet nothing has materialised – which to me is strange, as I usually can visualise where I’m going and let that refine itself – leaving me ready to go, when the time is right. I’m sure it’ll come – there’s still a fair amount going on and life will now get easier in the coming months ..

    Reading blogs .. is to get to the point of a daily list – if not – miss them and move on … some I love to read and don’t want to miss (as yours) … cheers for now – Hilary

  9. JD says:

    @ Hilary — Thank you.

    I was flipping through my old posts, and I landed on “Find Your One Thing.” When I landed on that, I remembered how important it is to find that one thing. And each of us has our own one thing.

    Sometimes other people help us find our one thing. One way to find that is to ask your friends that know you best — what is the one book they would want you to write for them? When you know the book that others want from you, it’s a metaphor for your legacy, and the gifts you share with the world, whether or not you actually write the book.

    You have a gift for stringing together insights from past and present in a meaningful way.