Clear Your Instapaper Reading List Today

I’m a big Instapaper drive. I once put together an unread list of over 500 articles, essays, stories and other short articles (plus a couple of novels) in this app. I never intended to read everything I saved. It’s time to clean up my Instapaper. And if you’ve got a cluttered reading list in your Instapaper, pocket, or Evernote, it’s time to clean up yours as well.

Like any to-do list, a reading list often reflects over-urging. When you save a story, you picture yourself as the person who read the story: someone who understands bitcoin, someone who has an opinion of Lady Bird , someone who is emotionally moved by Cat Man.

But we may not always be all these people. (For example, no one will ever understand Bitcoin.) We are all very busy and there are more articles published on the web every day than one person could read in a lifetime. If you’re hoping to read what’s really important, you need to narrow down the definition of what’s important. Here are three strategies for shortening your list:

Strategy 1: The Mari Kondo Method

In The Life- Changing Magic of Cleaning Up , Mari Kondo recommends hugging all of your belongings to your chest and asking, “Does this make you happy?” You can try the same thing with your reading list: “Will I like reading this?”

Don’t think about how you feel after reading the article. Always nice to read something. What matters is how it feels to read . And “enjoy” doesn’t necessarily mean “feel happy.” You can “have fun” by reading a grueling article about war or depression, learning from it, or absorbing any strong emotion other than boredom. You can “enjoy” the required reading by feeling prepared for a meeting or midterm exams.

If this seems too abstract, ask instead, “May I not read this article?” Has the relevant information cycle already ended? Will anyone post a simpler overview of this article later? Anyone post a deeper dive? In any of these cases, archive this article.

The last question to ask yourself is, “Why did I keep this?” If you don’t remember and the article doesn’t sound particularly exciting, skip it.

There is something you really need to read: things for work, for school, for your friend who asks you every day if you’ve read his novel. But if all you feel is some vague feeling that “everyone should read this,” I allow you to archive this sucker right now. When people ask if you are reading this, say, “Sorry, I was busy!” When people argue about an article, don’t join them. You may feel left out, but is it worse than reading this boring article for a long time? Probably no!

Strategy 2: Fast Reading

At the start of one typical reading session – commuting, lunchtime, your kids’ sleep – check how many pieces are on your reading list. Then guess how many of them you might look at, just to get the gist, before the session ends. Now try to refute this assumption.

You can get bogged down by reading one of the articles. It’s not scary; this is kind of the goal of the whole exercise. But if you notice that you are doing this, put this article aside for later – it passed the test – and find something leaner.

Strategy 3: Great Sort

If you are too shy for the above methods, but still worried about a pile of unread documents, create a folder “for long term use”. Anytime you read an article and you are tempted to switch to another or even Twitter, move that article to your long-term use folder. If you have a few old articles at the top of your list that you always scroll through, move them to a folder for long term use. Move everything that interests you to this folder.

Then you can read all the fun in your home folder (Inbox) before returning to the long-term folder and digging into it as you see fit.

You may never be able to open this long-term folder. If so, great! You probably never intended to read these passages – and that’s okay – but they’re still there if you change your mind.

Keeping sanity

I don’t believe Marie Kondo’s promise that if you clean your house one day, you will never fill it up with rubbish again. You won’t magically stop saving boring articles. But you can improve their archiving.

Sort your articles from oldest to newest, and don’t allow yourself to skip past articles (if you keep skipping one, archive it). To keep abreast of outstanding assignments, enable the unread entries icon in the reader application. When this number becomes too large, conduct a browsing session.

Test different methods and choose what works for you. But whatever method you use, remember: nobody reads everything. And nobody should.

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