The day I heard about Pocket, I installed every app and extension the service had to offer because it solved a major problem I had at the time: saving articles from the Web so I could read them later.
Fast forward a couple of years and my Pocket reading list is so long I can’t endless-scroll to the bottom of it. Part of the problem is that I have IFTTT set up to send articles I save on other services like Feedly and Twitter to my list as well.
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Pocket certainly isn’t to blame; my habit of saving more content than I can consume in a lifetime extends to Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, SoundCloud and others.
I’ve tried to prune my list several times, with various approaches. One of my favorite weapons was the TimeToRead Chrome extension, which added a tag describing how long each of my Pocket articles would take to finish reading.
I first used it to help me find short articles (by searching for the tag ‘1 minute or less’) and blazing through them first. That helped to a certain degree; many of these posts were also time-sensitive, so it was easy to delete the dated ones quickly. Similarly, I tried sorting my articles by date, weeding out the oldest articles that I didn’t care for anymore.
You’d think that these tricks would have helped a lot — but even after days of diligent reading and deleting, I’d barely made a dent in my article queue.
Am I a digital hoarder?
My motivation for saving content for later was to avoid wasting time reading during the work day. The only problem was that, after work, I hardly wanted to look at walls of text. So the articles kept piling up. In fact, I added five articles to my reading list while writing this post.
Why do I continue to save articles when I know I probably won’t get around to reading them? Did I have some hoarder tendency that was manifesting itself in my digital life?
I kept telling myself that I had to get things under control. Reading those articles would not only enrich and entertain me, but it would also help me clear out my digital clutter and achieve reading list zero.
Then I tried reading…
I added a shortcut to Pocket on my home screen and my personal start page. For a time, I managed to get through a few articles a day and it felt good to be getting something out of all those times I clicked ‘Add to Pocket’ on my devices.
The real payoff came when I traveled around Europe for about a month in April, I found myself frequently offline and using the app a lot more — on long flights, waiting for buses and trains, and whenever I had a few minutes to spare.
What I learned was that I was the best possible curator for myself. Over the past few years, I’ve saved a wide variety of brilliant articles, tutorials, stories, songs and videos to keep me engrossed for days. And when you have time on your hands and nowhere to go, there’s nothing quite like a deep treasure trove of great content to explore.
Since then, I’ve been opening up my reading lists and saved item queues on all the apps that have them. It’s a treat to dive in and pick something at random from a list, knowing that it’s almost certain you’ll find it interesting. After all, who would pick better stuff for you than you?
I’ll probably never be able to completely clear my reading list — or even come close to doing so. But I believe that it’s better to have a library full of stuff you’ve never read, than a scanty queue of just the latest articles doing the rounds, that you probably already know about.
Is ‘reading list zero’ a myth? It’s hard to say, but until I find out, I’m enjoying the ride one article at a time.
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