How To Read Blogs More Effectively
“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:
- Develop your professional skills for XYZ.
- Improve your health.
- Improve your thinking skills.
- Learn the latest and greatest on XYZ.
- 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:
- Free professional advice.
- Wisdom and adages.
- Fortune-cookie advice
- Hacks for work, hacks for life.
- Opinions and experience.
- Timeless principles, patterns, and practices. (“Evergreen” advice)
- How Tos
- 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:
- Simple solutions for today’s problems.
- 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|
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|
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.