Sunday, June 17, 2012

Clearing the Backlog: 635 Blog Posts to Read

screen capture - Jeri Dansky's one starred item in her Google Reader

I read a lot of blogs, even after doing some major unsubscribing. I glance at about 400 blog posts a day — just the titles and maybe the first lines, which is what shows in my RSS feed in Google Reader — and decide to take a closer look at maybe 50 per day.

When I first look through the posts, I just "star" the ones I want to look at, and then go back to them later. But somewhere along the line the backlog of starred items got out of hand, and I found myself with 635 starred items. Not good.

I didn't want to declare Google Reader bankruptcy and just dump all those blog posts without a glance — so I did what organizers recommend to others, and went through my backlog a bit every day for a week, until I was done. Small dedicated blocks of time do add up, and the steadily decreasing backlog number was encouraging.

The clutter of those unread blog posts represented, as clutter often does, a series of unmade decisions. What were all these blog posts, and what did I want to do about them?

Well, they fit into these categories:

1. Blog posts triggering some action.

Sometimes that was a quick-and-easy action, like mailing a link to the post to someone else I thought might enjoy it. Sometimes the blog post had an image I'd like to include in one of my own blog posts, and I needed to ask permission to use it. I've got a standard query for that, so it's easy to send off the message. I did these quick actions right away.

And sometimes the action was commenting on the blog post, and that's pretty quick, too.

But sometimes the information in the blog posts was something I'd use as part of a bigger project. In that case, I just updated the appropriate to-do list, and added the blog post to the appropriate bookmark folder, so I could find it when the time came to work on the project. (I'm using Safari as my web browser, so I have a collection of bookmarks. If you use a different browser, you may have a collection of favorites.)

2. Blog posts providing organizing-related reference information.

These posts might be about products my clients might care about, or products/strategies I might want to blog about — or both. In that case, I'd just add the blog posts to my bookmark collection, and perhaps add an item to my "future blog posts" list.

Some posts that seemed to be useful at first glance were less so when I looked more closely; for example, the products might be only at the concept phase, or very hard to get your hands on. Those I didn't include in my bookmarks.

3. Blog posts providing other reference information.

Here's just one example: a blog post mentioned a product I might be interested in buying. In this case, I added a bookmark to my "Possible Purchases" bookmark folder. (The vast majority of the items in this folder never do get bought, but it's still proven helpful many times.) Other examples might be recipes I'm interested in trying, or local places I want to visit.

4. Blog posts providing juicy content: long articles I wanted to read, or videos I wanted to watch.

These could get added to a reading/watching list — but what I did as part of the clean-up was decide to read or watch them now. That sometimes meant curling up with my iPad rather than sitting at my computer, but I wanted these things OUT of my backlog. So, because education is one of my interests, I read about why someone chose to spend $140,000 to send her child to a Waldorf school for 12 years. I also watched a wonderful almost-five-minute video explaining why Pluto is no longer a planet.

But I also found that some things I thought I'd want to read or watch didn't grab my attention when I took a second look, so I just removed the star from those, with no regrets. And yes, my prior blog post did make me a bit fussier about which items I wanted to give my time to.

Now, after a week, I'm down to a single starred post (and no unread posts) — and that one starred post is there on purpose, as a reminder to show my gratitude to others.

It feels pretty darn wonderful to have that backlog gone.


eat-out'erka said...

Jeri... How about making a list of bloggers you want to thank (or start building it) and putting it on your to do list, ha?
I often have those "I will leave just this one email in my mailbox", and I find it very interesting why this item made me unable to proceed to "decide what to do and put on the todo list"

Jeri Dansky said...

That's a great point - and I don't have a great answer. There's no logical reason not to do exactly what you suggest. Maybe I will. :-)

Edgar Wilkinson said...

I gotta say after reading your post I cleared out quite a bit of my backlog. I went through about 2000+ saved posts, some from sites that are no longer active. Now I've started the task of going through all the dead feeds and seeing what exactly happened to them. Most have abruptly ended but some have changed topics completely and are of some use to me. Google needs to come up with some sort of monitor that sends you a message that "Hey, this blog hasn't been updated in 823 days." As I just found.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for encouraging me to go through my backlog and I look forward to more articles.

Jeri Dansky said...

Edgar, you're very welcome — that's an amazing amount of clean-up you got done. Thanks so much for letting me know that my post inspired you!