Digital Minimalism III

I’ve had an Instapaper account for ages, since long before Marco sold the product. Like other apps that could hypothetically organize my life, I always want to—mean to—develop some workflow for using Instapaper but then never stick to it. The problem with digital inboxes is, at least you can see the mess building up on your desk, and maybe someday that mess makes you feel bad enough for long enough that you take some time on the weekend to just clean the damn thing off, but apps like Instapaper and OmniFocus just become these black holes for me, where I stuff more and more things in, but that creates this stupid psychic barrier to actually using them.

It’s one of those “perfect is the enemy of good” things, where, since there’s too much stuff in my Instapaper account to possibly read, I just never use it at all.

Pah! So many behaviours are transparently silly when you describe them, but that doesn’t keep you from engaging in them.

Anyway, I decided to wipe out my Instapaper account and start over, try to going through it a more-regular routine. Ideally, the system looks like this:

  1. Come across an article on the internet I want to read
  2. Save it to Instapaper
  3. Sit down and read the article in Instapaper at a time that suits me
  4. Mark up the article with annotations
  5. When I’m done reading, export the annotations and archive the article
  6. Collect the annotations in a brief post and publish it as a note on my site

Okay, I’ve decribed the process. Let’s see about actually making it work. I suspect the main hole is not having a defined time when I’ll sit down and do some reading, so the inbox just keeps getting bigger and bigger!

(Problem 2 is not having a defined time to sit down and summarize my annotations, but one battle at a time…)

The Freedom of Leaving Things Behind

An addendum to this is a more general principle, seen when you sell all your stuff to move to another country, or just go into the Instapaper app, select Archive All from the menu, then go to the Archive tab and select Delete All from the menu:

It turns out all that stuff you were holding onto doesn’t matter.

I felt a moment of trepidation: what if there was an article in there that I saved two years ago and I’d really benefit from reading it?

But I subscribe to this philosophy: if something is really so important, it’ll make its way back into your life, somehow. Especially when it comes to reading content from the internet, which is a dime a dozen-million. Leave behind all that stuff you’ve been hauling around just in case, someday. Make room for whatever it is awaits beyond the horizon.

Lofty words for some web app, sure, but… it applies as much to everything in life as it does to Instapaper.

Dan J @danj