If you’re anything like many of us here at LexBlog, your Google Reader is jam-packed with hundreds of subscriptions and hundreds or thousands of unread items. For a new adopter especially, the constant stream of content can be overwhelming⎯maybe even enough to give up on using RSS.

But using a reader is an essential and efficient tool for any blogging lawyer to generate post ideas, engage in conversation with other bloggers and continue their professional development. 

Here are five tips to using your reader efficiently and improving your blogging through better reading:

1. Stay organized

Google Reader LabelsThe key from the start of using Google Reader is to keep your feeds organized. The easiest way to do this is to immediately put a feed in a folder with a descriptive name when you subscribe to it. That way when you want to read about a particular topic, you will have no problem doing exactly that.

One more tip: As you read items, you can tag them by hitting your “t” key while you’re in your reader, then type in a short word to further categorize your post. For example, I use “blogit” to remind me to come back and possibly write a post in response to someone and “favs” to keep the most noteworthy and influential posts in one place. Later, type “gt” and select the tag you want to view.

2. Use Keyboard Shortcuts

There’s no better way to cruise through mountains of content than with your reader’s keyboard shortcuts. Google has a complete list, but the most important one’s to remember are:

  • “j” moves to the next item while “k” moves to the previous item in the list
  • “enter” toggles items open and closed, so you can go from seeing just the headline to the full post content
  • “v” will take you to the content’s webpage in a new tab or window
  • Use “s” to star an item 
  • Press “e” to email an item to a friend from your Google-associated email account from right within the reader window
  • Tapping “r” refreshes that dreaded unread count
  • “shift a” marks all items in a folder as read
  • My favorite is “f”, which brings the content to a simplified fullscreen mode:

Google Reader Fullscreen

These shortcuts work especially well when you switch your view to the list view instead of the expanded view so that you see lists of headlines instead of lists of full post content that will require lots of scrolling.

3. Enable Google Reader Sharing

Google Reader ShareBy default, your reader will not be set up for easy sharing. To do so, go to the Settings dropdown, select Reader Settings, then choose the Send to tab and activate the services you share content on, most especially Twitter. 

If you’re constantly logged in to Twitter by having your browser remember your username and password, then you may click Send to at the bottom of any post and select Twitter or some other service from the list. The post you are sharing will have its link shortened automatically and the post title and shortened URL will be dropped into your Twitter update box where you can add some more insight and then share it with your followers.

There is a perfect synergy between consuming valuable content in your Google Reader and then tweeting it out to your followers. They will appreciate you sharing something they may not have found, and consistently sharing quality content will not only up your follower count but also give you more opportunities to engage with other professionals.

4. Clean out the waste

While you read inside Google Reader, the service tracks your habits and provides reports on your usage in its Trends section, which is located toward the top left of your reader’s navigation menu. 

Trends is more useful than you might expect. By reporting on what items you have read, clicked on, starred, shared and more, it actually provides you with the analytics necessary to remove the waste from your reader. If you’re only reading 2 percent of the items from a feed anyway and never clicking on them, that’s a solid indication that the feed is not providing you with engaging content and is not worth the subscription.

It’s also kind of neat to see when your heaviest reading times are, like the following screenshot shows from my Google Reader. Apparently I need to work on reading more on Tuesdays.

Google Reader Trends

5. Take it on the go 

Google Reader is the king of RSS readers because it syncs across platforms. So you may never use it in your browser, but you will use it to sync the feeds between your tablet, smartphone and desktop reader. That way you can read wherever you are on your mobile devices, while Google Reader still tracks your habits in Trends.

Some good apps that sync with Google Reader are the Reeder app for your iPhone or iPad or the official Google Reader app for your Android device. NetNewsWire works well as a desktop RSS reader for Macs and FeedDemon is great for PCs.