How much is too much?

Like many people, I have a bunch of blogs and news sites that I keep track of using the Feedly RSS reader. I also have a few newsletters that I receive via my home and work email addresses. It seems like I’m always falling behind on my feeds and the subsequent reading that they generate. So, I decided to do a little experiment: I timed myself catching up on 24 hours’ worth of feeds. Here are the results:

  • 40 minutes scrolling through the feeds, skimming or reading the occasional article, clipping a recipe, or adding a longer article to Pocket to read later.
  • Another 10 minutes doing the same for the newsletters.
  • 35 minutes reading the longer articles I had saved to Pocket (occasionally giving up on one partway through).

That’s 85 minutes, close to an hour and a half. And it’s worth noting that this didn’t include the time to read and “process” (in Getting Things Done vernacular) my Facebook feed (which I recently pared down after reading The Great Facebook Deep-Clean), my Twitter timeline, or my email. It also didn’t include the 20 minutes or so I usually spend each morning scanning news headlines on Boston.com and Google News and skimming interesting-sounding articles.

On one hand, an hour and a half per day is a lot of time just consuming (some sources of) content to keep up with what’s going in my professional field and a few areas of personal interest. On the other hand, there’s a value to that time investment. In my professional career, it allows me to make better decisions about the products I market and to credibly position myself as a subject matter expert. In my personal life, it stimulates my curiosity and creativity, and it gives me a better understanding of the world I live in. My reading helps me discover new recipes, useful lifehacks, and interesting tidbits to share with colleagues, friends, and my social networks.

But how much is too much? Do I need to purge my feeds and commit to fewer long articles? Or should I commit time regularly, much as I do for exercise, to stay on top of things, while allowing myself to skip a day or two here or there without feeling too guilty about it? Probably the solution is some combination of both, though I have this sneaking suspicion that I’ll never get it quite right and will always feel a bit behind. And that’s not to mention the time I probably should spend creating rather than consuming. But that’s a topic for another day.

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