How to handle reading materials

Date: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 by GTD Times Staff

Question: How do you handle reading material? I have magazine articles, web articles, books, newsletter special articles, blog interesting articles, etc.  Do you input them into “context” just like any other task?

Senior Coach Kelly Forrister: I consider reading materials fall into two categories: nice to read and must read. Nice to read is like a newsstand. I can read it or not. Those are not tracked on any lists. they are organized into a plastic folder called “Read/Review”.  For must read items, those are tracked on my Next Action lists, just like any other action I am committed to complete. Those are organized based on where the reading takes place (@Office, @Home, @Anywhere or @Computer). The reading is typically stored in a project folder if it’s related to a project, an @Action email or hard copy folder, or I simply paste the URL if it’s a website into the note field of the next action in my list manager.



7 Responses to “How to handle reading materials”

  1. Jacque Harper says:

    Thanks to Kelly and to the original writer of the question. This is a useful approach and I’m glad I read it.
    But here’s my related problem — I often can’t tell if a recommended article (blog post, magazine, web page, etc.) is “Read/Review” or “must read” without actually reading the dang thing. This typically happens when a colleague forwards a link. When I’m processing that item from my inbox, I don’t know which category to use, and I don’t want to take the more than 2 minutes to read it to find out.
    I’m either overthinking this, or being naive in some way. What do others think about it?

  2. Lyena Solomon says:

    I agree with Jacque. I usually just read the article and do not file it away. My main problem is that I never have time to go back and read it. And even if I do, often it is too late.
    Therefore, my approach is to set aside a couple of hours a day just to read and comment on the articles. Books, on the other hand, fall into “must read” category. I do not even bother with “nice to read”. I will never have time.

  3. Kelly Forrister says:

    You’re correct–that can be a tricky distinction sometimes. Perhaps ask yourself, “What’s the payoff to me if I read this?” And then discern if that payoff is worth tracking or not.

  4. Anita says:

    Thank you for a much needed & timely reminder!
    I’ve realised recently that I have many unread books, magazines & documents on my PC which are mostly mixed in with unread ones. Not a normal state of affairs for me…

    When every thing’s organised, I use a similar question to Kelly’s to see if it’s worth my time, compared with any other reading material. I love reading, so could easily amass way too much!

  5. Mark Jantzen says:

    Good stuff Kelly.

    After some trial and error with that idea I split my non-actionable reading into two categories based on how quickly I want to delete or purge them. Read – FYI is stuff that gets old almost as quickly as it arrives and I’m comfortable tossing without hesitation. Stuff that I might want to access later I put into my Reference system organized by topic that gets purged annually. I purge them annually but not always every year (in the spirit of the Weekly Review).

    And sometimes reading material is actionable where the next action is longer than two minutes to simply determine, what is it?

  6. Kevin says:

    I categorize my reading similarly – a) Read at Leisure or b) Must Read. Of course, many of the articles I read are online now and not in physical print. One of the best and most convenient ways I’ve found to manage my online articles is using a service I’ve found called ReadItLater. It is web based and has iPhone/iPad apps too that sync together. I think they have other app platforms too.
    When I see an article I may want to read, I just send it into ReadItLater from my browser or Twitter or other service where they have an integrated link. Once it’s there, the service strips the online advertising “clutter” that accompanies most online articles these days which makes it much easier to quickly review the real content. Thereafter, I can review and read the articles when it’s convenient, i.e., when I’m waiting somewhere like in a doctor’s waiting room, airport, etc. You can tag an article with a) Read at Leisure or b) Must Read and also further tag it by category. If after I’ve read an article and want to keep it for future reference, it’s already categorized and I can mark it for archival on the service and it removes it from my reading lists. Also, it’s very easy to send it on to my Evernote account if I’m keeping a project folder on Evernote that the article relates to.
    I’ve found this to be very handy and am glad I stumbled upon it. I think there are other services that are similar to this, e.g., Instapaper, etc., but I’ve never used them but am sure they work easily as well.
    I think it’s the convenience factor of being able to read any article that I’ve noted at any time that makes this so valuable to me.

  7. Jim says:

    I take the reading matter to my local coffee shop, where, free of home and work distractions, it suddenly becomes inteersting.

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