Read Later Zero

Read Later Zero

A few weeks ago, I set out on a mission to get my Pocket queue under control. I was creeping up to 2,000 unread items and I knew that there were things in there I actually wanted to read, and that it could be a more useful tool for me. Last weekend, I achieved Pocket 0. Here’s how:

“Read Later” is an Inbox

I don’t know if all of the people who refer to Inbox Zero have ever watched Merlin’s talk or how they practice it, but I’ve gotten quite good at my Gmail version of it. My system is simple: using a combination of stars and not-in-email lists (Todoist, issues, etc) I keep everything out of my inbox following a triage session (which I do a few times per day).

For “read later”, I currently use Pocket (although, I own Instapaper too) which has similar features - and is supported on all of my devices (making capture very easy).

Triage regularly

I put the Pocket app on the home screen of my iPhone, and enabled the ‘unread count’ badge. Those who know me (and have ever seen my phone), know that I’m fairly obsessive about eliminating those little red circles. This helped me form a habit to process a bunch of my Pocket inbox whenever I had a few free moments.

My goal was to triage (note: this doesn’t mean read) 100 articles per day. I set Pocket to show me the oldest first so I could work my way through the backlog.

Be relentless. If you’re like me and want to consume ALL THE INFORMATION, there are probably articles in your list that are no longer relevant. Delete them.

Process and Purge

It may be that you have hundreds of unread articles in your read later queue that are all things you just want to read for the sake of reading. For me, however, I found that my backlog consisted of several types of articles that I was able to skim and act upon to remove them from the queue:

  • Restaurant / cafe reviews - if they sound good, I added them to my foursquare todos.
  • Interesting apps - I download to try later (side note: google play is so much nicer for this than launching iTunes…)
  • Research for a specific project - I send the article to the relevant Evernote notebook (still not 100% sold on this one).

Finally, a lot of my queue tends to be technical articles (performance tricks, coding techniques, new releases, etc). The thing is, without a specific project associated, there isn’t anything actionable for these. Currently, I tag them with the language/framework/etc and archive (skimming first if they’re quick). In theory, they’re still in my archive for someday. In reality, things change quickly and I’m far more apt to just search when I need to know.

Everything else - which is long form articles that I actually just want to sit and read - gets “favorited”.

Now, when I get the chance to sit and read, I open Pocket to my “favorite” queue and enjoy!