I really believe in designing a workflow.
As knowledge workers, our setup and tooling is very closely tied with our productivity.
And even if I have spent a lot of time looking into this, and looking for the best possible workflow, I never could find something that worked perfectly for a lot of time.
What I have found to work over the last few years are mostly routines and habits, and public commitments (such as my newsletter), joined with workflows/systems that are simple and convenient to use.
So, what I will attempt to describe here is one part of this workflow, the one part that has working consistently for over a year, that I use to read, process and remember things on the web.
This one involves the following things:
- Effortlessly save things to read or check out later;
- Processing and filtering interesting articles to actually read and highlight them;
- Use a spaced repetition system to remember the most valuable things afterwards;
PS: I want to make clear that I still haven't found a fixed workflow/framework adequate for note taking and task management. I have tested things such as GTD and Zettelkasten - conceptually they are fine. But they keep falling through the cracks when I try to implement them. Anyway, this is a battle I will keep fighting!
Collecting: the foundation of the system
I would argue that collecting things the right way provides about 70% of the value of this system.
Collecting is a concept borrowed from David Allen's GTD methodology, that basically states that we are horrible at remembering things later. And each thing you have to remember to do is an "open loop" - that will cause stress and trouble for you later. So it must be automatic and really easy for you to collect all those open loops.
Every open loop must be in your collection system and out of your head. Keep collection tools nearby so that no matter where you are, you can capture anything that has your attention. The result of this practice is to have everything out of your head. The less you track in your mind, the clearer you will be, and the more important and functional the collection tools will become, which allows for your mind to be optimally clear. This will make your collection tools more important. GTD Best Practices
GTD is specifying this method for tasks / to-dos, but in the context of reading, I think it's a little different.
Whenever you find something interesting while browsing the web, specially if you find it through some kind of feed, if you don't collect it in the exact moment it draws your attention, then it's probably lost forever. You won't remember the keywords for search for it afterwards. It will probably be very hard to find on Google.
And at some point, you will have a vague recollection of reading/seeing something related to X subject, but you won't remember the details.
And this is why you have got to have a tool to collect all this useful or interesting data points you find in the internet.
If you have everything collected in the same place, you can easily search or filter things when you need to remember them.
That means you need a bookmark manager.
For me, the tool that does this job is Raindrop.
I've tried a couple of different bookmark managers, but settled on Raindroip because of some characteristics.
- It works consistently everywhere.
I've never tried to gather a bookmark and failed with Raindrop. The browser extension makes it very easy to save things when I'm on the computer, and the iOS app makes it really easy to save things when I'm on my phone. I never have to think. I just press a button and it saves.
- It works with different types of content (Landing Pages, Videos, Tweets, Articles)
Not everything is an article. Sometimes I want to save a Github repository, or an interesting tool that might be useful at some point. Evernote always made a mess out of this things. Altough this article is talking about the specific part of reading things, and those are mostly articles/essays, it's useful to save other things for later.
- It has a permanent record
I can be assured that if I save something on Raindrop, it will be saved forever. They cache it and provide a permanent link for me at the moment I saved.
After you have things collected, it's time for the second part of the system:
Processing: making things useful and actionable
This part of the system involves a weekly ritual, and a couple of other tools.
But of course, I will have to continue this text next week. See you! 😋