How I collect and organize articles and documents to read later

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I read a lot. I know you do, too. I also know that the volume of articles and documents that cross our paths every day is overwhelming.

We can’t stop the river of information. It would be foolish to ignore it. All we can do is manage the information that comes at us every day, and I want to share with you how I do that.

Here’s what I do to collect, organize, and read the articles and documents in my life:

  1. I subscribe to (over 100) blogs with Google Reader. I can read them later, on my laptop or on my iPhone (I use Mobile RSS).
  2. On my iPhone, I also use Zite, an intuitive app that learns what you like to read and serves up similar content. This brings posts from a wide spectrum of blogs I would never know about. I also use Flipboard and Twitter.
  3. I use Instapaper as a web app (Chrome) and their app on my iPhone. This is where I send posts I can’t read at the moment. I send them from my RSS reader, from Zite, Flipboard, by forwarding emails and via a web clipper.
  4. Every morning I go through my RSS feeds and Zite and Flipboard, scanning the headlines of the posts. I delete 98% of them. A few, I read on the spot. I may send five or ten to Instapaper. If it’s something I know I want to save, I send it to Evernote. If I’m reading it on the web, I’ll open it first with Evernote Clearly, to remove ads, etc. (Evernote is my go to app for saving everything I need to save (for reference or a project) or do. (If you haven’t tried Evernote, go check it out (it’s free). If you have Evernote and have not been using it much, get my ebook, “Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity”. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with Evernote.
  5. For blog post ideas, I go through Instapaper and when I find a post that catches my eye, I’ll read it. I may use the article as the basis for a post or it may give me other ideas. I also go through Evernote. I have a tag, “blog-post-ideas,” and with one click I can call up hundreds of notes with complete articles or one line ideas.
  6. I save documents (pdfs, Powerpoint, Word, etc.) in Evernote. I usually add a few key words to the body of the note and assign tags. Most of these documents are saved for reference purposes, or to use in connection with projects I am working on or plan to work on. However, I also use a couple of tags to identify notes for later reading. One is “Read/Review,” which is assigned to notes I know I want to read at some point. I will also assign a “When” tag (i.e., Now, Next, Someday, etc.) if I know when I want to read it. The other tag I use is “ebooks” for pdf ebooks I’ve saved. I can browse this tag to find things to read or for ideas.
  7. If there are emails I need to read or save or take action on, I forward them to my Evernote account. I now maintain “inbox zero”.
  8. Every day I focus on getting my work done, not on how much I can read. This is key. If I don’t read articles I’ve saved for later reading, I don’t worry about it. We’re talking about electrons here, so there is no problem with running out of storage space. The articles I’ve saved in Evernote are searchable and thus a repository of reference materials I may use in the future. So again, I do the best I can and I don’t worry about what I don’t get to.

So that’s my routine. I know there are many other methods and apps available for collecting, organizing, and reading. I’ve tried many of them and continue to try new ones when they come out. I like keeping things simple, however, and that means using as few apps as possible. Evernote is my “information hub” because everything is synced and available to me wherever I am, and because there are so many ways to get information into it.

How about you? What do you do to collect, organize, and read articles and documents? Please share in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Great article. It is difficult to deal with the many different sources of information that the Internet makes available to us.

    Is there any reason why you use Instapaper for sending posts for later reading? Why not just send it to EverNote (under a different tag) in the first place?

    Look forward to learning more.

    Regards
    Sanjay
    http://blog.standss.com

    • Good question, Sanjay. I do save some articles directly to Evernote but I prefer to send them to Instapaper first for two reasons. First, I save a very small percentage of the articles I set aside to read. I may clip a few paragraphs of an article and save that to Evernote using the web clipper but I usually don’t save the entire article. Second, when I do want to save an article, I prefer to open it in my browser, then open it with Evernote’s Clearly extension. This removes the ads and extraneous material and formats a nice, clean article. Without that, the article will have all kinds of header and meta data, ads and other stuff I don’t need cluttering up my account.

      I hope that helps. Thanks for asking and for the kind words. I hope to hear from you again.

      David Ward

  2. Thanks David. I haven’t used Instapaper but will try it out.

  3. Great little article, I use a similar system of apps to tame the information tsunami. Never heard of Zite until now, so I’m checking it out! Thanks!