How Zen Are Your Online Reading Habits?

mindful readingI have just started a simple daily meditation practice. I am only a few days into the process and it’s difficult, but there are moments of clarity peeking through all of the noise in my head. What does meditation have to do with how a person reads online?

Meditation helps to increase focus and awareness in the current moment. (I know I sound like another annoying person on the mindfulness bandwagon, but I am serious.) When it comes to reading online, do you feel focused and engaged in what you’re doing? Or do you feel anxious as you skim dozens of articles and read headlines just to quell your fear of missing out? When discussing news or current events, do you find yourself saying “I saw that,” instead of “I read that?”

It’s tough to sift through all the noise and clutter online to find content that truly interests you. You know what I mean, those few rare articles or blog posts where you zone out and read the whole piece fully in one sitting, without checking email, or clicking away to another site.

Similar to my  new meditation practice, I have a few online reading habits and resources that I use to read in a more mindful way. I want to feel grounded and engaged when I am reading so that I am in a position to really learn something and retain ideas. Here are my top tips and tools for taking a more zen approach to online content consumption. I would love to know what other people do to manage their online reading behavior, so please share your thoughts in the comments.

Instapaper: Increase Focus

I have Instapaper installed as a Chrome plugin and use it to save articles so I can read them later. When I am online at work, and a headline catches my eye, I will click on the article, hit my Instapaper button, and that article will get saved for later. This helps me to cut down on interruptions and stay focused on my work. On weekends, I like to sit down with a cup of tea and go to Instapaper for a list of articles to peruse. I end up only reading a few select pieces and deleting a majority of the links. When I find something that I really enjoy, I use the archive feature to save the link in one of several categorized folders that I’ve created. That way, if I want to refer to the article later or recommend it to a friend, I will have it ready to go.

Feedly: Save Time

In tandem with Instapaper, I also use Feedly to pull in all of my favorite website content in one place.  All of the go-to websites that I check daily are added to different categories or feeds. Some of the feeds are for work and some are for personal interests. When a friend recommends a new blog or website, or I discover a site that I think I may like, I will add it to my Feedly. I keep track of my behavior on Feedly and if I am not reading anything from a particular news source, then I will remove that source from the feed.  This pruning helps to eliminate unnecessary clutter and noise. Feedly also has its own preset feeds or channels that you can subscribe to on a variety of topics.

Curated Email Newsletters: Let Others Edit

The rise of the curated email newsletter is a welcome trend in the digital world and a great way to add some focus to your online reading habits. I subscribe to a few weekly email newsletters like Ann Freidman, Remotive Weekly, and Farnam Street. Each week, when the new email arrives, it feels like I have received a gift-wrapped package of the most interesting content online. By letting smart writers and thinkers cull through tons of content for you and edit it down, you will save time and discover new topics and resources. To find an email newsletter that you’ll love, ask a few friends who they subscribe to or check out this Buffer post.

Medium: Get Friendly Recommendations

Medium is not just an elegant publishing platform, but it is also a network for discovering new content. If you create a Medium account, you can follow other users. When a person you follow publishes or likes a story, that story will be more likely to be recommended in your homepage feed. Medium also has Reader and Writer Digests available. You can turn on these weekly emails in your settings to receive content that has been written or recommended by the people you follow. The digests are a simple way to cruise through a list of content that your online network is reading and enjoying.

Print: Go Analog

I still LOVE print and subscribe to key publications like Bookforum, The Paris Review, The Desert Oracleand Runners WorldWhen a new issue arrives I read it cover-to-cover. I also save favorite back issues, especially of The Paris Review and Desert Oracle, which both look great on a bookshelf. The experience of reading print is so much more calming and relaxing for my eyes and my mind than reading online. I feel less likely to jump to another website or article and instead of dealing with a firehose full of information online, I feel like I am getting a nice manageable drip of content all tailored to fit the audience (me!).

Write: Synthesize Ideas

I don’t know about you, but I read a lot every day. I read for work, to stay current with news, for intellectual growth, and for fun. To complement all of that intake, I like to have a little output too. I have built up an almost daily writing habit over the years. I find that creating my own content helps me to synthesize ideas and really digest all of the material I am covering. While most of this writing remains personal and unpublished, it’s a healthy way for me to feel balanced about the content that’s swishing around in my mind. Writing is a way to take what I’ve read and make it my own.

What do you do to keep your online content consumption in check? Let me know if there are any cool tools or new email lists I should subscribe to.

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