Process Google Reader Items GTD Style

by Mike Shea on 22 June 2007

The more I use Google Reader the more I love it. Today I realized that the way I process Google Reader items is the same way I process my inbox in my system for Getting Things Done. Here is a way to process items in Google Reader so quickly that you can process hundreds of items a day in far less time than you would typically spend surfing. Using these advanced Jedi Reader techniques, you can learn more, stay more current, and save time every day.

  1. Begin by adding a whole lot of your favorite websites to Google Reader. Don't be intimidated by having dozens of feeds or hundreds of new items. You will soon be able to quickly carve through a few hundred items in less than twenty minutes or so; a lot less time than one would typically spend surfing the vast waste-filled tubes of the internets.

  2. Go to Google Reader, click "show all", "new items", and begin navigating through your new items. Use keyboard shortcuts to navigate through these items. "J" will go to the next item, "K" will go back an item. Keyboard shortcuts are a big reason why this works as well as it does.

  3. For every item you find that may be of interest to you, press "S" to star that item. This may either be an item you want to read yourself or an item you want to share with others.

    Note: This is where the GTD 2 minute rule kicks in. For surfing, we will cut that down to a five second rule. If you're spending more than five seconds on an item, star with "S" and move on. You'll be able to spend more time on the articles of interest to you later.

    In GTD terms, pressing "S" to star an item has removed it from the generic "stuff" inbox and flagged it as an item to read later. This is part of the processing of GTD. You're moving stuff from a generic wasteland of captured crap and turning it into things for you to do - in this case things to read later.

  4. Go through every item in your list quickly, pressing "J" to go forward, "K" to go back, and "S" to star an item for review later. If you spend an average of two seconds per item you can get through 300 items in ten minutes.

  5. Once you have cleared your Google Reader inbox of new items, click "starred items" and spend more time on each of these selected items. This is where you do more than scan. Now you can actually spend the time to read each of these starred items. Once you have read it, remove the star by pressing "S" again.

  6. For any item you want others to see, click "share" or press "Shift S". This will let others subscribe to your feed of items you wanted to share. Send your Shared Google Reader URL to all of those friends you typically spam with Instant Messages or funny joke link emails. They'll appreciate reading your stuff on their own time. You can find my latest shared items on the sidebar at or view and subscribe to my shared items directly at Mike's Shared Items.

This way of surfing through new news items using keyboard shortcuts and quickly sifting through items by starring them has the potential to cut hours of surfing out of your day; time better spent on more productive things like farming gold for World of Warcraft or selling old crap on Ebay.