My Article Reading Process

*This post is outdated*

Pocket Article ReadingReading articles online is a great way to learn new information, learn new skills, and keep on top of current events.  Unfortunately, many services that attempt to make reading articles online easier often lack important features or cause as many problems as they solve.

My Article Reading Process

Last week, I decided to update my article reading process.  Previously, I used Feedly (and before that, Google Reader) and Pocket for my article reading.  Over the past several years, I had built up a good number of articles, but rarely got around to reading through them.

At the start of this project, I had gotten up to about 7000 unread articles (which I found using this Android Widget), but couldn’t find an easy way to see how many articles were in my Read and Favorites sections (about halfway through this renovation, I figured out how, which I’ll explain below).  These issues, combined with a few features that Pocket was lacking (number of Articles Read each day, Mass Tagging) led me to seek a new home for my articles.  After reading some guides online, I decided that Evernote would be a good place to store my articles. It already contained much of my life, so it seemed natural to give Evernote my articles, too.  I signed up for Evernote Premium to increase my data upload capacity, and started clipping my Favorite and Read articles from Pocket.  Because these were the two groups of articles that I couldn’t track, I decided to get them out of the way first.

Using the Evernote Web Clipper (which unfortunately doesn’t let you remove ugly aspects of the article before clipping it), clipping the articles, tagging them, and finding a notebook for them (I’ll share my Tag and Notebook list at the end of this post) was easy, but time consuming.  I was able to clip between 50 and 1000 articles per day, depending on how much work I put into it, and after 8 days, had gotten through 2454 articles, ~800 of which were from my Favorites. Once my Favorites were finished, I didn’t have a strong desire to keep the articles that I read, but didn’t Favorite.  I also figured out that by going to Pocket Settings, and Export, I was able to export an HTML file listing all of my articles, divided between Unread and Read (It looks like Favorites are not marked, and are included in whichever list they’re in in Pocket).  By pasting this list into Excel, I was able to use the cell counts to determine how many articles I had.

At this point, I decided that the remaining Read articles were not worth my time, and I began deleting them.  The number of Read articles was all I really cared about when I started this project, and as long as my Favorites were already saved, I was fine deleting the articles.  I still have the full list from the Export, if I need to reference it in the future. So at this point, I knew how many articles I’d read, how many I have unread, and had all of my favorites saved so I can refer to them later.  I briefly changed Feedly to automatically send my unread articles to Evernote instead of Pocket and decided Pocket was just going to be used to clear out my unread articles, but soon realized that Evernote was unruly for dealing with unread articles.  This has been my process for about a week, and now I’m about to slightly change it up again.  Because of the way IFTTT (I’ll include the recipes I use at the end of the post) processes articles into Evernote, only an excerpt of the article gets clipped.  This is fine, because I don’t need full articles in Evernote, but it does make it slightly annoying to read through my unread articles.  I have to click the link, go to the website, read the article, and then go back to Evernote, tag it, and move it into the Read folders.

Today, I decided that Pocket is going to remain the home of my unread articles.  It’s a much easier process to read articles in Pocket, at which point I will tag them and mark them as Read in Pocket.  Then IFTTT will send the read article (with Tags) into Evernote.  I also have articles I mark as Favorites sent to a separate Favorite folder in Evernote. This updated process accomplishes all the goals I set out to achieve and is almost as easy (the increased difficulty is worth it, because it allows me to see the article counts). I have noticed some slowing down of Evernote, I’m not sure if it’s due to the increased number of notes (I went from ~1000 to 4028 in two weeks), because I’ve also noticed some slowness in my computer as a whole.  Here are my Article Tags and Article Notebooks that help me sort all of these articles.  I also have a file called Article Stats, which includes my Tag List, how many articles I deleted without clipping, and my original Pocket Account Exports.

Article TagsArticle NotebooksTools I Use

Feedly to Pocket
Email for New Articles
Email New Favorited Articles
Save Read Articles to Evernote
Save Favorited Articles to Evernote

My Recommendations

  • Choose a process that works for you, and that you can stay committed to.  My process is pretty intensive due to how much information I want to track.  If you only care about saving and reading articles, only using Pocket or a similar service may work better.
  • Plan for the future.  If you think you might want to track your article reading later, it’s better to formulate a process that allows you to do so now, even if you don’t take advantage of it until later.  Switching 10,000+ articles between multiple services is not a fun endeavor.
  • Automate as much as possible.  It’s a lot easier to keep this process going if you can automate several steps.  The steps I can’t automate (like manually writing down daily article counts), I complete as part of my daily routine.  Completing it at the same time each day is as close to automating as I can get for now.

Closing Thoughts

I’ll update this post to let you know if I experience more slowness, or if I change my process any more.  Let me know your article process or if you have any questions.

How I Work

Here’s my version of How I Work from the Lifehacker Series.

How I Work

Location: Twin Cities Area, MinnesotaHow I Work - My Computer

Current Gig: Results Processing Coordinator, Lifelong Learner

Current Mobile Device: *Update!* T-Mobile Moto X

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S2 running CM 10.1.3, Nexus 7 running CM 10.2.  Waiting for dat glorious KitKat ROM.  (And considering purchasing a Galaxy Note 3.)

Current Computer: Custom-built mid-range computer and a 17” HP Pavilion dv6 laptop that desperately needs to be replaced by an Ultrabook.

*Update* Replaced the laptop with a Chromebook.  It has its pros and cons, but it works much better than the old HP.

One word that best describes how you work: Prioritizing.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Evernote is my main productivity tool.  I have a to-do list for every day that I move to a to-done list when the day is over.  I’m also starting to re-work Microsoft OneNote into my tool-list, since TiddlyWiki wasn’t working out for me.  I’ve always got at least 3 Chrome tabs open (Fantasy Football, Facebook, Gmail, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, Google Music, Reddit, Pinterest, Amazon…  3 is low for me).  Dropbox and Airdroid are great for transferring files across devices.  Using the Microsoft Office Student Edition has been one of the best choices I’ve made in the past few years, after using LibreOffice for half of my college career.  VLC for video watching, Handbrake for video converting, Steam for friend-talking.  As far as tools, mostly my PC, phone, and tablet.

What’s your workspace like?
Pretending to be clean, but actually really cluttered.  I like having things I’m using, or will be using in the future at the ready, so it’s all just sitting on my desk.  I clean it once or twice a day, but there are always things that it’s just easier to leave on the desk.  It’s a nice workspace though, a decent-sized desk, with my PC and laptop, speakers, headphones, external hard drive, wireless keyboard and mouse, wall-mounted TV with DirecTV service, and Xbox 360 (9 days until Xbox One).  Good for multi-tasking and ingesting excessive amounts of media.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
I serve as tech guru to my friends and family, and as such, spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s wrong with their devices, and how to solve the problem.  To answer all of their questions, I have an advanced degree in Google-Fu.  Not a doctorate yet, but I am able to solve a majority of their problems, and save myself tons of time by being fluent in Googlish.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I’ve tried Astrid, Wunderlist, and a handful of others, but the only one to stick has been Evernote.  I’m going to work on having a Bullet Journal along with Evernote (starting tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it goes), but one of the best parts of Evernote is how centralized it is to use one service.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I think my tablet has been one of the best investments.  I used to have a 10″ tablet that was really clunky and unresponsive.  Then I got a Nexus 7 for Christmas, and it’s a completely different experience.  It’s great for reading, games, and not clogging up my phone with apps.  I’m also a fan of my Fitbit (although will happily replace it when a better generation of tracking devices comes out).

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Oooh, this is a tough one.  I’d say I’m one of the best media trackers on the block.  Using to track which movies and TV shows I’ve seen, own, and want to see, Goodreads to track books, an Excel spreadsheet to track music (I haven’t been able to find a service that allows the monumental level of music tracking that I’d like, so I have to use my own low-tech solution for the time being.  I’m a fan of other types of tracking (hence the Fitbit), but I’m not an expert at any of that yet.

What are you currently reading?
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin.  I’m a pretty slow reader, but also want to read all of the things in the world, so I read multiple things at the same time.  I also have a backlog of hundreds (possibly thousands) of articles on Pocket and Saved Links on Reddit to read.

What do you listen to while you work?
I have a large collection of music that I’ve uploaded to Google Music, and every couple weeks I make a new playlist of work music.  It’s usually pop or alternative or rap, and it’s the same music I listen to whether I’m working or not.  The top listens are the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Yellowcard, Relient K, Death Cab for Cutie.  I also have to remain faithful to the musicians and popular songs that I discovered (A Great Big World, Secrets by OneRepublic, and several others).

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Definitely an introvert.  I love hosting parties and get-togethers, and when I get talking with interesting people, I have a great time, but I definitely recharge when I’m alone.

What’s your sleep routine like?
Pretty regular, 7-9 hours.  Fall asleep between 12 and 2 AM, wake up between 8 AM and 10 AM.  I’m sure that will change when I get a job, but I’m enjoying what I’ve got (and utilizing those night time hours as personal recharge time).

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Elon Musk, Marissa Mayer, Laszlo Bock, Albert Panello, George R. R. Martin.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Another tough question.  I dunno if anyone ever actually told me this, but my family and general upbringing taught me patience and adaptability, which are traits that I recommend everyone try to cultivate.  I think the world would be a very different place if we weren’t always rushing, and if we could all roll with the punches a little more.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Breathe.  Just breathe. :)