Getting organized and keeping up with information overload.

With all good intentions a few years ago I set up a pocket account and used it as part of an “Article review” workflow. So that I could keep a somewhat better handle on all the articles I would like to read but didn’t have the time to when I came across them on the internet.

The workflow had four parts to it:
Feedly: A repository for all the sites and blogs I follow located in one place. I have a Feedly Pro account for the extra integration (I was one of the 5.000 that got it at the limited one time payment of $99 for a lifetime pro level account).
Pocket: For saving an article for reading later.
IFTTT (If This Then That): To take any item in Pocket I marked as a favorite and put it into my Evernote Inbox with the set of tags from pocket plus a “ToReview” tag that I used as reminder that the article needed to be sorted out of the Inbox and into the correct Evernote notebook.
EverNote: My digital file cabinet.

What I did was any article I wanted to read but couldn’t at that moment I would use the “Save to Pocket” chrome extension or button if in Feedly to save the article for later. Next after reading the article if I wanted to save it I would mark it as a favorite in Pocket and let IFTTT copy it to Evernote. I would also then Archive the article in Pocket so I can delete it safely at a later date.

With that workflow in place during the last year after my son was born I did not have much free time to devote to anything outside of work and family. However I still tried to keep up at least on reading articles on the web related to photography. So I did the usual; find and article, save it to pocket and review it later… however that review it later part didn’t happen very often and some months it never happened.

Now you can imagine that after a year I had amassed hundreds of articles (this didn’t even include all feeds in Feedly I have not really kept up with either). I took a count of them all just in Pocket and I had about 600 articles saved to review. I think Feedly stopped counting articles at 1000 when I looked at what was stacked up there as well.

I sat down and looked at all the stuff I was trying to keep up with not just for photography, but just in my day-to-day activities with work and family. In all honestly, I felt very overwhelmed as that is a lot to review and I wasn’t sure it would even be worth it to review them or just delete it all and start over so I would have the stress of having to remember to still review, read and organize all this information.

I decided that if anything this would be a good exercise in forcing my self to get back to organizing and getting a better handle at the hectic life I’ve had in the last years. Something I’ve been trying to do for the last five years and not being very successful with.

So I set some goals and rules for myself (still in progress) to keep better organized and try to prevent the overload happening again.

  1. Clean out all current articles saved in pocket. (Done. See below)
  2. Clean out my Feedly to get rid of some of the feeds I rarely read and tend to just do a “mark all read” on.
  3. Re-organized Evernote so that it is not big “dump” of random stuff and get rid of things I do not need to keep there.
  4. Evernote is for personal (non-work) items.
  5. OneNote is for work related Organization (While I use Mac at home I work on windows laptop with heave SharePoint usage).
  6. Limit the saving of articles to ones that are actually useful based on these sub-rules:
    1. Can be used for work/home/photography projects
    2. Can be used for blog posts
    3. How-To Articles
    4. Related to getting my photography business set up /running it in the future.
  7. Set at least 30 minutes per day to read items saved in Pocket.

So with what little free time I’ve had over the last two weeks and the above rules I focused on Pocket and skimmed through and marked which ones as favorite that would still be interesting to read so they would at least be in Evernote. Also I got rid of a lot of duplicated saved articles. I had one article saved six times! I made sure to put that one in Evernote as it must have been important to read if i saved it off that many times!

The final count now in my Evernote inbox is now 476 (there was about 200 already notes in there already before I started “cleaning”).

Next is to clean out Feedly then go back to Evernote and sorting everything out.

I hope I can keep this up and make sure I’m not saving everything I come across again and not reading it for another year.

So what does this have to do with learning photography? Well honestly, not much but except that 90% of the articles I had saved to pocket were all about photography. I was hoarding all the information I found and thought was useful. One thing I had to learn the hard way, even after hearing it a few times, was the more time you spend being online the less you are shooting (or doing something else important like being with your family). I’m not saying don’t read up on new things. What I’m saying is don’t let you desire to take in information overload you. Don’t horde everything you come across thinking you will have time to read later. It seldom works out.

Try to focus on the important things that you can use right now or in the near future and get rid of the extra. Doing it here with all the information on the internet available for you will also help you focus out in the “real world” at you job, with you family, and with yourself.

Thanks for reading.


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