Keeping up with news and social media: My workflow

An interesting paradox became apparent months ago at the office: As I got better organized and more focused on my projects, breaks between the action became increasingly messy and unsatisfying. While I’ve always liked to stay abreast of the latest news from RSS and Twitter, given the sheer volume of content available combined with little free time during the work day, it’s rare I ended up digesting anything of substance.

Yet, more recently, I had a revelation: Given the distractions and tribulations of the modern workplace, why bother with the rush? I now file everything away in a simple yet organized manner, going back to the content later in the day when I have time to process it at a more relaxed pace. It’s led to less stress in the office and I’m able to better enjoy the various articles, videos and other assorted content I find.

Below, the details on my workflow that I’ve broken down into two sections, gathering and processing.


  1. I scan through the latest posts on Kiwi, my current Twitter client of choice. If anything looks interesting I click on the accompanying link to send it to my web browser in the background.
  2. I switch to Reeder, my Google Reader client, scanning through the latest listings in my primary folder (while I’m subscribed to a hundred plus RSS feeds in total, I pare down to roughly twenty most read or otherwise important feeds for the primary folder), again passing items of interest to my web browser.
  3. Every so often I’ll pick through a few web sites directly, with the Times and the stylized design/tech blog Tputh being two common sources. Standout articles of interest are opened in their own tab.


As the day goes along, my web browser tabs grow in number from the aforementioned gathering steps. Once that number gets exceeding large or I’m otherwise in the mood, I’ll start cycling through the tabs, making a few decisions for each:

  1. Is this content worth spending any time on? If not, I close the tab.
  2. Is the content digested really quickly (e.g. single photos, 30 second Youtube clips)? I’ll pause for a few moments, take it in and then close the tab.
  3. For longer content, text focused information (e.g. most news articles, blog posts) is sent to Instapaper while everything else (e.g. photo galleries, Vimeo clips, visual design guides) gets passed along to Read It Later.

Generally, a gathering or processing cycle takes no more than a few minutes, perfect for the five minute break I usually take between Pomodoro sessions. The key is mapping almost every one of the above steps to a quick keyboard shortcut or flick of my mouse wheel. For example, within my web browser, I use the Shortcut Manager for Chrome extension to run a Javascript-based bookmarklet with a simple keyboard tap. In my case, I invoke Instapaper with Option+1, Read It Later with Option+2, and for times where I want to read longer content right on the web browser, Readability with Option+4.

In the end I’m left with a pile of interesting longer form content in both my Instapaper and my Read It Later queues to read at my leisure.