Maria Popova: What I Read

The editor of Brain Pickings shares her omnivorous media diet

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How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts and the literary world, to hear their answers to these questions. This is drawn and condensed from a conversation with Maria Popova, the editor of Brain Pickings.

Please don't be terrified by how omnivorous my day is. In the morning, I check my email for anything that needs addressing immediately. It's a quick scan for any red flags before going through aggregator services like Summify, The Tweeted Times and skimming my top priority RSS feeds in Google Reader, which I live and die by. I then pre-schedule about ten tweets to be published on my Twitter account for the mid-afternoon. All of that takes about a half hour to forty-five minutes and then I'm off to the gym.

At the gym, while on the elliptical doing some sprints, I'll do long-form reading on the Kindle and Instapaper apps on my iPad. I also use Evernote a lot while I read so I can clip out quotes and save them for use in articles I'm writing.

After, I'll head back to my apartment and--while eating breakfast--skim Google Alerts and check any recent @-replies I've received on Twitter. I use Twitter as a newsfeed--I follow very few people, only linkers--people who share links to interesting content in the majority of their tweets. It's a content discovery tool for me, not a conversational one. Mostly I scan for fact-checks, to see if people have caught broken links or if there are any particularly volatile responses to something. The sad reality is that I rarely see all my @-replies because it would take me hours a day just to read them.

Once I get to the office or studio (one is in Midtown Manhattan, the other is in Dumbo -- down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass), I'll try to write the longer of my Brain Pickings articles for the next day. Because I'm more productive earlier, I don't check my email or Twitter until that first article is finished.

By this time it's mid-afternoon and I'll spend the rest of my day on Google Reader going through my feeds. Some of them are Open Culture, Swiss Miss, The Atlantic Life channel (which I contribute to) and Coudal--they're one of the best curators out there.

I'm also pre-scheduling tweets in 15-minute intervals for the remainder of the day--I tweet between 8AM and 11PM Eastern--with very occasional exceptions. It's four tweets per hour basically, and on weekends it's more like three per hour at 20 minute intervals. (I used to tweet every 10 minutes, until I was talked into cutting back.) On my laptop I use Tweetdeck. As for my iPad, I wish someone would come up with a decent client that can tweet-schedule. Right now the only one that I know of is Hootsuite, but I don't like the shortener so I'll go way out of my way to avoid it.

Afternoon is when I really dig into my (meticulously color-coded and filtered) email. It's one of my biggest life stressors because I get more than I can handle and respond to. I'm a notorious skimmer when it comes to emails and I generally only manage to respond to the most pressing stuff. And, of course, any notes from my 75-year-old grandma in Bulgaria.

When work is done I won’t be watching TV (I don't own a set) or reading in print. I haven't touched a newspaper in print since 2004, which was my sophomore year of college when I had a trial subscription to The New York Times. After reading newspaper digitally I never went back. I see newspapers and TV's as very habitual things, I never really developed that habit so I see no unfilled void in my life right now.

As for print magazines, I really enjoy the feeling of them. I used to read those on the gym elliptical until I got an iPad--now they've been completely displaced. I don't use any of the proprietary iPad apps for magazines, I don't see an added value that makes them better than a website or Flipboard--which is the only non-Instapaper app that I use, really.

In the evening, after devoting a half hour or so to meditation or yoga, I'll finish the remaining two Pickings articles for the following day and pre-schedule some tweets for the morning. I do some reading before bed: I read and review a lot of books, 10-20 a week (some are art/design, so mostly visual titles). I live and die by Google Reader, but it can become quite a guilt thing with all the items I haven't gotten to. So, every Sunday night at 11 pm, I'll declare "Google Reader bankruptcy" by marking all of my items as "read" -- and then I'm able to start afresh on Monday morning.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.