Feeling overwhelmed by your RSS feeds? 

If you’re a fan of news readers, chances are you’ve been there. A morning coffee (not yet finished) in one hand and an overstuffed reader with too many folders, hundreds of feeds, and a scary stream of new items waiting to be read.

You’re not alone. RSS overload is a common problem. It’s nice to get all those updates in one place, but let’s be honest, sometimes it’s too much. After all, your eyes and brain can only handle so much. Not to mention, you’d probably like to have a life outside of your reader.

But don’t worry – I’ve pulled together a short guide to organizing your RSS feeds. With a little trimming and some reorganization, you can get your reader back to the manageable stream of content it used to be.

Get Rid of RSS Subscriptions You Don’t Need

It’s easy to get to attached to feeds, but it’s important to regularly prune subscriptions so you don’t end up overloaded. It’s like going through the clutter in your house. It’s hard to get started, but you feel good once you do.

Here’s an easy system to help you get the ball rolling.

Go through each category in your reader and try to delete the following:

  • Feeds that never update or update too much. I noticed recently that I follow a few feeds that haven’t updated in months, while other feeds update so much that the rest of my content gets lost. To remedy this issue, I decided to go through these feeds and weed out the ones I don’t read as often or find myself completely skimming. I used a 3-month rule for the feeds that haven’t posted in awhile. If the last time they posted was over 3 months ago, I deleted them.
  • Feeds that post duplicate content. Do you  see the same stories showing up in your stream? Take a close look at your feeds and see if any of them are posting similar content – for example, two news sites that cover the same beat. Try cutting a few that carry the same stories and keeping one that’s most comprehensive and up-to-date. 
  • Inactive feeds. I like to take a quick browse through the folders in my reader each month and manually check to see if any of my feeds are inactive or have stopped updating completely. It’s a little time consuming, but it’s definitely worth it. These are no brainer removals since there’s no content to make me hesitate.
  • Any feeds you’ve lost interest in. I know it sounds hard, but be ruthless. Don’t hang onto a feed that you’re always saying you’ll read when you have time. When was the last time you read it? Use the same 3-month rule as above. If you haven’t read a feed’s updates in 3 months or more – delete it.

Find the Right Organization System

I tend to take a pretty standard and straight forward approach to organizing my feeds: everything is grouped by theme or topic.

flowreader categories

Group by theme and topic.

But this system doesn’t work for everyone, so here’s a couple ideas that you might want to try:

Create an Email Inbox 

Jill Duffy suggests using something she calls an “email” approach to manage subscriptions. We all have feeds we tend not to read very often, so try sticking them in a few labeled folders and then place the feeds you read the most into an “Inbox” folder.

This tactic is great because it mimics what many of us already do in our own email inboxes – the important stuff goes into an inbox and everything else is sorted into folders.

FlowReader allows you to create your own categories, but it also automatically puts loose feeds into a default Uncategorized category. The basic idea is that you can’t have a feed without a home – a lot of other RSS services such as Feedly and The Old Reader use a similar system to automatically make it easier for users to stay organized.

Group the Way You Read 

Matt Wood wrote a great post on 43 Folders about how he set up his feeds in Google Reader (it’s from 2007, but still applies). He found that grouping the way he read was better than using topics since he felt organizing topically enabled him to hide a high number of feeds he never read in his folders.

Here’s the system he came up with:

  • News. Feeds for updates from traditional news outlets and news sites.
  • Can’t Miss. A list of favorite sites with content you want or have to read.
  • Skip ‘Em. Feeds you like to read, but don’t have time for.
  • Not News. A folder for low-priority stuff to read or browse later in the day.

The best thing about using this method is there’s endless amount of ways you can use it. For instance, you could create a category for “Favorites” or “Long Reads” for articles that require more time and focus to get through. Another option is to try separating them by time: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, etc.

There are a lot of different ways you could play around with this and it’s all entirely dependent on how you tend to move through content each day. The main goal to keep in mind is that you’re trying to make daily information gathering process more manageable and think about how that fits into your every day workflow.

How do you like to organize your feeds? What helps you keep your subscriptions down to a minimum? 

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