I would like to confess a small lie that I told myself each time when I found something interesting on the Internet, but I didn’t have enough time to read it. It was Read later.
For sure, reading is my primary way to acquire new knowledge. I read a lot. I read books and blogs articles, observe people on Twitter, receive newsletters and, browse Hacker News. Each time I find something I consider that is interesting for me and I want to know more about it. Sometimes it’s a book recommendation, fresh news, tutorial or a new app announcement.
I didn’t want to miss that stuff.
Tools to the rescue?
Since I remember, I took advantage of different tools to store interesting content. Although the idea was right, I realized that something was broken in my workflow. Over the years, I collected thousands of things – articles, videos, whole blogs and websites, tools, and services I wished to got to know because I thought they would be useful in the future.
I didn’t have a solid habit of reading collected stuff. I read one article and add five new. Every time I started processing my list, I discovered that most of the items got out of date since they were here for more than half year or even more.
Even if I performed a cleanup, the story had come full circle.
This is no problem with tools
I thought I’d be able to solve the problem with the overwhelming amount of content only by using a proper tool. But to be honest, no tool can help you with a massive pile of articles if you don’t process the collected stuff on a regular basis. It’s no problem with tools.
I started thinking about why I store tons of links, but I don’t need to read them. It turned out that I needed to remember that something like that exists. Moreover, pushing it to Read Later heap gave me the conviction that I didn’t lose what I found, so I pushed almost everything there. Ultimately, I created a bad habit.
So in short, I put most of the stuff to the big box called “I wish to get to know more about it, but I wait for the time I’ll need it”. I didn’t know if I’d remember that I had them. I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to find them. But Fear of Missing Out was stronger.
Don’t read everything
The crucial thing was to understand that I can’t read everything. It’s impossible. So if it’s impossible, why I even tried?
Lots of blogs, news aggregators, social media platforms and newsletters suggest you what you can read, watch or listen. They produce a continuous stream of content. In most cases, the content is neither urgent nor important.
The only reasonable way to deal with streams is to process fresh content without postponing only when you have enough time. If you’ll find something interesting, check it, take note if needed, and go on. But If you don’t have time, you lose nothing. It’s more than sure that you’ll find another exciting content next time you’ll process the stream.
Generally speaking, don’t postpone processing information from streams unless you’re sure that topic is your area of interests. The rule of thumb is: check it now or never.
Be aware of what you read and why
I’m no opponent of Read Later list. I still use it but in a more conscious way. What does it mean?
When I do research, I sometimes push some articles and materials to my Read Later list to come back to them in a relatively short time. I know that I seek this information, so it’s more likely that I’ll process the article. When somebody recommends me something, I usually push it to the Read Later list as well.
When it comes to casual Internet browsing, I have a simple strategy. I try to read stuff without postponing unless they’re related to one of my active research projects.
What if I find something interesting, but I don’t have time to read it? In most cases – nothing. I just let it go. If you have a similar problem, take into account that if you hadn’t visited the stream, you wouldn’t have seen this interesting stuff and for sure nothing wrong would happen. If you need this information, you’ll find this one or even better source.
The Read Later list should be your partner, not the enemy. Don’t feed it by random things you found on the Internet.
Of course, some people don’t care about the number of elements things on the Read Later list. 500 or 5000 – who cares? If you’re one of this person – it’s OK. Don’t solve a problem you don’t have.
I recently filtered 600 elements from my read later list. They were things that no longer interested me. Subsequently, I cleared my list at all.
Right now, I maintain a small running note with useful links and I take advantage of Safari Read Later feature to keep some information for a moment.
Next time, before you’ll add something to your Read Later list, Pocket, Instapaper, Bookmarks or another tool, ask yourself: Is it really for me?