Productivity and GTD
Why I Stopped Using Pocket to Capture Stuff
I suppose you know Pocket. It is an excellent service that allows you to save all kinds of links to read or watch later. It integrates perfectly with all your social media, your email, your browsers and all your mobile devices, so that whenever you find something that seems interesting, wherever you are, and you don’t have enough time to go through it thoroughly, you can capture it with just a simple click to look it up later. Frankly, I believe it’s a great idea.
All these tools are really well developed and offer a service that at first look, seems really useful. But let me tell you my personal experience and why I’ve decided to stop using Pocket (or any other similar app) to collect stuff that seems interesting.
First of all, it is way too easy. Yes, I know this seems like a positive feature beforehand, but when capturing things is that simple and it costs that little effort, why not capture everything, or at least almost everything? Capturing is that easy that you end up capturing almost anything, not just what you really care about. Every time I opened Pocket and saw the hundreds of articles I had unread, I didn’t even know where to start, and I got so overwhelmed that I abandoned after skimming a couple of articles.
The problem is that deleting an article from your list takes a couple of minutes (you need to read it at least) while adding a new one takes less than a second. With that entering/exiting ratio, your list of things to read cannot do other than growing indefinitely. You’ve probably saved real gems that you’ll end up not reading, just because they are hidden under a sea of information.
Second of all, it doesn’t encourage you to take decisions. There is no other intention than to capture. Anyone that practices GTD as their personal organisation system, knows that capturing stuff just for the sake of it makes no sense and leads to chaos. There must be some kind of step between capturing the link and doing something with it (reading the article, watching the video, etc.) in which you are able to decide if the link is relevant or it isn’t, if you need to read it or watch it before a specific date, or if you just simply need to save it as reference material because it will probably be useful in some future.
In GTD it is called clarifying or processing. It makes you devote some seconds to decide what you are going to do with each link, but it is necessary to save and organize correctly the stuff you really care about and throw away the rest.
Finally, at the speed at which the internet moves, a huge part of the information gets obsolete really quickly. It doesn’t make that much sense to store most of the links for a long time because, at the end, when you really need to read something about a specific topic, you’ll need to google it again if you want to be updated.
To sum up, after 3 or 4 years using Pocket, I’ve stored around 500 links that I’ve never got to read (just a few of them). In addition, more than the 50% of that information no longer exists. Either the website has disappeared, or the resource has changed its URL and the link gives you a 404 error (the page doesn’t exist). To make matters worse, most of the links that have survived are no longer relevant to me.
Taking all this into account, a few months ago I decided to stop using Pocket and capture the links I find interesting with FacileThings, even though it takes a few more seconds to do so (usually it’s enough with using your browser’s email integration and sending the page to the FacileThings inbox address).
This makes me capture with intentionality (“am I really going to spend a few minutes reading this?”). What I capture enters directly to my GTD system and, one or two days later, it will be clarified and organised. In addition, if I want the information to always be available in my system, I then copy and paste the content (or a part of it) in the Notes section, so that if the link stops being useful in the future, the important information remains in my system.
I’ve needed a good few hours to “process” everything that I had in Pocket , but the fact that most of the links were broken helped a lot. Now, instead of needing to read 500 articles that I was never going to read, I have only 40 that I’m really interested in, and, in addition, they are perfectly organised.
And you, do you use Pocket or any similar app? Are you capable of keeping up with everything that you are capturing or you feel, like me, that information overload stresses you out? Tell us your experience in the comments below ;)