Make the Internet your personal Library

Read the right piece at the right time and get smarter.

I received an email from Pocket the other day that told me I was in the top 1% of Pocket readers (in terms of words read per year). This surprised me, so I thought more about how I read online, and why it works for me.

Pocket makes it easy to save links (articles, videos, pdfs.) It creates a queue for you to read later.

The Problem Being Solved

There is a problem with content distribution online. Everything is chronologically sorted with newest on top, refreshing constantly. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, News, etc. It’s constant and clamoring; aggressive and accelerating.

We re-read the same concepts on the same sites, recycled and repackaged to capture our clicks—Wasting our time and effort.

Some creators work hard to produce well-crafted, timeless material that will always be relevant. These are the masterpieces—pieces that change lives if they find us at the right time. But with these outlets, that proper timing has long odds.

There’s a small window for us to discover and absorb meaningful content, in the correct context for our lives. This context friction applies across many measures: Form, Medium, Material, Difficulty, Life State, and Life Stage.

This is what Pocket solves for me. I collect everything, and build a library of the best content I can find that is always accessible and organized for me. Pocket ups the odds that I can find the right information at the right time.

Maybe I find an interesting long-form article in the line at the grocery store. Maybe I find the perfect (but dense) academic paper at 3am on a red-eye. Maybe I find the answer to all of next months’ scaling problems this month. Maybe I find the guide to my next role’s success while in my current role.

Aggressive use of Pocket is my way of organizing the Internet’s information for my own personal use.

My Reading Process

First rule: Add all the things.

I save everything to pocket that I even consider reading. Even if it’s already read, I save and archive. Even if I won’t read it for a month. Even if it’s a whole book.

Most of my saved pieces come from Twitter (use ‘read later’ in app). Through Chrome, right-click > ‘Save to Pocket’ or click the plug-in the in the upper right.

I rarely delete anything. Between Archiving, Tagging, and Starring, there are ways to stay organized. This lets me reference pieces or send them to people, without ever losing the source of a lesson or an idea.

Second rule: (try to) Tag things.

I’m not amazing at this, but I try.

My most used tags: Videos, Psychology, Marketing, Investing, Strategy, Management, Sales, Health, Munger, Design.

These tags solve the problem around correct context for pieces. I may not be in a mindset to appreciate or apply knowledge about Sales this month, but damn sure I will be before long. Then I’ll need to find the best content.

This solves short and long-term context friction. For example: short-term thing (I’m on a Strategy project this week, I’ll push all other reading for now), or long-term (I’m not managing anyone now, but I’ll want to be able to find great stuff about it in a few years.)

Third Rule: Read like a Monster

No elaboration. Read like your life and livelihood depend on it. They do.

Farnam Street says it best: The Buffett Formula—How to get Smarter

Fourth Rule: Collect the All-Star Pieces

Some pieces I want to keep in my brain forever. These I star. I re-read through the Starred pieces every month just to keep them fresh in mind.

It’s a short, carefully protected list, but valuable to me. Lessons are easily lost if you don’t have a system of refreshing yourself on them.

Fifth Rule: Compare, Contrast, & Combine

Great lessons can come from reading various opinions or perspectives, putting them side-by-side and comparing.

To do this, it’s vital to have a history of reading, so you can pull and compare pieces. You’ll be amazed how helpful this is—whether ideas get reinforced, or they cannibalize each other over opposite claims.

Sixth Rule: Embrace the Anti-library

I’d been blindly chasing the goal of ‘Pocket Zero’ (Inbox Zero for pocket). My default was to go after that goal, for some reason. But I’ve changed my thinking recently, thanks to two powerful ideas.

The Anti-Library — Courtesy of Nassim Taleb (via Farnam Street)

Systems Trump Goals (#8) — Courtesy of Scott Adams (via Farnam Street)

These ideas reinforced (in different ways) that it is actually ideal to have more in your Queue than you can possibly read. As long as I always have something interesting to read and a deep catalog of references, it’s a fantastic tool.

The logic is pure—If it’s in my pocket: I’ll read it someday, I’ll lose interest, or it will lose relevance.

But if it’s not there, the odds that I’ll read it are near 0%.

If you like this post, you'll love the Evergreen Project. It's designed to help solve this problem. The first two posts:
Competitive Advantage, the core of building a winning business
How not to Hire like a Clownshow
I work on Managing the Marketplace at Zaarly, the best place to discover and hire local service providers.
Follow me on Twitter: @EricJorgenson
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Thanks to Matt Donovan and Nauzli Dadkhah for help making this passable.

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