Why I decided to read less

When I discovered Hacker News for the first time I thought it was awesome, all that great articles to read everyday! And they are about startups/business/programming, so I’m not wasting my time!

I was wrong.

The articles are (mostly) great and worth reading if my time was an unlimited resource, but it’s not. Months ago I decided to go cold turkey and quit HN, Google Reader and Twitter to finally spend less time reading online and spend more time doing something real. Again, it was not the right move. I started wasting time, this time on Reddit and 9gag, a lot worst than reading HN isn’t it?

Finally I found this article on HN, what struck me was one of the comments. Farnsworth has a simple solution to this problem, after you have read an article write a short summary of it, a couple of sentences should be enough. I started adopting this method right away and it’s working, this morning I read only three articles(2 of them from my reading list) and spent the rest of my time doing my job: studying. Because every article requires some more effort — writing requires me to use a lot of mental energy — I tend to trash low quality articles and read only high quality/interesting pieces, the signal to noise ratio is a lot better.

One tool I recommend if you follow my advice is Pinboard and the relative iOS application Delibar, I use the description field to write my commentary on the article — another benefit is that I keep an history of interesting articles I find on the web. Writing a critique of an article also helps me fixing the content in my head, I need to read again the parts I didn’t understand well and lookup words I didn’t know.

Still this is not enough if your RSS Reader interrupts you every hour with dozens of new articles, this is a problem I solved months ago after reading Marco Arment’s article: Sane RSS usage. I’m subscribed only to low activity feeds or feeds with short articles(like daring fireball), I don’t follow general news websites or news aggregators.

Another trick I’ve learned is to manage my time with the Pomodoro technique, I force myself to read only in the 5 minutes break between each pomodoro. If an article requires more than 5 minutes I add it to my reading list — you can use services like Pinboard, Instapaper or Readability — and read it during the 25 minutes break.

Reading an entire issue of The Economist or The New Yorker requires a lot of time — english is not my native language and I need to lookup a lot of words — I usually choose the interesting articles when I receive a new issue and read them during the week.

This works great, I achieved a nice productivity boost without sacrificing my need of information and also I force myself to write each day — I hope this helps my (poor) english skill.