How I learned to read again

I hate feeling as though I’m missing out. A great gig, a party with old friends, a family get-together, the latest episode of an alleged ‘talent’ show where delusional members of the public sing other people’s shit songs in a badly-orchestrated attempt to make us feel better about our own mediocrity. Okay, maybe not that last one.

As designers, we subscribe to RSS feeds so we don’t miss out on the next inspiring article or nugget of advice. We read hoping it’ll help us improve, learn more or think differently in some way. And why not? Hunger for knowledge and growth is essential, and there is sure as hell enough brilliant writing on the web there to deliver it. But I’ve always struggled with making enough time to consume it, even a fraction of it.

Time to do something about it

Having used (and subsequently dropped) both Netvibes and Shaun Inman’s Fever in the past, the last few months have been nothing short of a revelation for me. I began using Instapaper to save articles I found through Twitter during the day, reading them on the iPad at night. Ditching the desktop made such a difference; it was like sitting down to read a magazine. The next step was RSS.

Instapaper interface screenshots

I imported my Fever feeds into Google Reader and deleted all but my most essential, going from 149 down to 40. After hearing good things about Reeder for iPad, I picked it up and was quickly taken with it’s functional, yet somewhat charming, interface.

Now between Instapaper-ing select articles during the week and letting articles from my relatively small number of feeds build up in Reeder, my weekly ‘magazine’ is curated. Come Saturday morning, I open Reeder and dive in.

Reeder interface screenshots

Anything I might reference in future gets bookmarked into my Delicious account from within Reeder. Music-related posts not already using the HTML5

Having sieved select articles from Reeder through to Instapaper, they’re all read then bookmarked and/or archived. And that’s it. Sometimes it’s an hour-and-a-half, sometimes it’s a couple of hours dotted throughout the day. Always a belly full of content.

Lessons worth learning

Reading in portrait-mode (where there’s no sidebar menu) is key for me, because it means I can’t just skip articles. I’m forced to read sequentially, processing each one equally. Exposing yourself to articles you wouldn’t normally read is healthy, like when you come across a random article in a newspaper and ‘accidentally’ end up reading it.

Being realistic about just how much you can sensibly consume is paramount. It might mean ditching a chunk of your feeds to find a good balance initially, but if you’re frustrated with the state of your reading I think it’s a sacrifice worth making.