To become the successful student we want to become and to become the best person we can every be there is a constant need for information. You need to be a sponge, you need the urge to suck up all the information you can get.

But how do you gather all that information? I’ve received this question multiple times over email and in real-life. And during the past years and especially during the last half a year (I have a smartphone in my possession now for half a year) I’ve developed a system how I can gather all the information I want to read on semi-autopilot. The semi is for the human filter (me) which is always needed when you are sorting out information you would like or not.

The Sure-Fire Way To Read (And Share) EVERYTHING

When I say ‘read’ please read ‘consume links’. This is because I use this system not only to read articles, but also to consume video’s, websites and everything.

This method will enable you to read all the interesting things you come across on the internet, with internet I mean everything: also email, twitter and other social media. What is special about this method is that you not only have a way to capture everything online, but this works also offline.

You know the feeling of course. You are on Twitter, somebody shares an interesting article about for instance Google Plus. You click the link only to find out the article is around 4000 words. You know you would like to read it, but you don’t have the time right now. Four thousand words take around 12 minutes to read when you are an average reader (maybe 8 when you implement some speedreading techniques) and this is simply too long. So you want to bookmark the page or something only to never look at your bookmarks again.

Offline this is even worse. You are talking to a friend with an interesting article he mentioned. You jot it down somewhere, hoping to find it with Google and you lose the paper you’ve written on it.

Not with this system! Let’s get into it.

Your Toolkit

  • an Android/iOS smartphone. We are going to use a couple of apps which require a smartphone. Also the reading itself will be done mainly on a smartphone itself!
  • Google RSS Reader. This RSS reader is simply still the best reader for me to subscribe to all of my RSS feeds.
  • an IFTTT-account. IFTTT stands for ‘If This Then That’ and is a service which connects different services (like Google Reader and Read It Later) to each other. The service is now in Beta and I have 25 invites. The first 25 commenters who ask for an invite will get one. And a smart move would be if those lucky people with an invite will invite others as well (you get 5 invites to give out).
  • Read It Later. Both the phone app and the web app. If you want to share the read articles on your iPhone you need to get Read It Later Pro, to only read the free app will be sufficient.
  • Twitter. Obvious there should be a way to get all the interesting information to you. Therefor is Twitter of course. With an app like Tweetdeck you can even create filters to filter out irrelevant content. I can work with the normal Twitter app (necessary for Read It Later!) and some lists made for this workflow.
  • Captio. Captio is an iPhone app which enables you to send notes immediately to an email address. Combined with the following tool the ultimate productivity to-do system. For Android users there is Jotter.
  • Toodledo app. Combined with tags and Captio a great application to fix to-do lists! Android users, there are 3rd party apps which you can use!
  • Just a little discipline. If something requires ‘a lot’ discipline it won’t work for me. This is just a little and I can stick to it, so I know for sure you can too!

Gathered everything? Alright! The best way to show you guys how I use this system is to make a flow-chart. You can find the flowchart below (click to enlarge). I will write it down as well.

My reading system is Read It Later. This is where everything comes in and this is the place where I can share everything to Twitter/Tumblr/whatever. I use Read It Later as well to read all the articles of course. Read It Later is the center of my Reading System.

Offline articles are captured through Captio. On a post at Stepcase Lifehack I explaind how I connected Captio with Toodledo with email. That post will explain a lot of things I am doing right here, so it is highly recommended to read first! Again the link: Editing To-Do Lists on the Go: Integrating Captio with Toodledo

Every note captured on Captio will be automatically send to Toodledo. I use the %read tag to sort make these notes stand out from the rest of my notes/to-do’s. So when somebody says ‘Stefan, did you read the article on X or X?’ I will say no and ask for the title of the article. Save the name of the article as a note through Captio (captio is one of the most used apps on my iPhone). If they don’t remember the name, ask if they can send you the article over email. Because they won’t remember this (please, refer them to my to-do system article, I want people not to forget these things!) save this as a note yourself. Write something down like ‘Asking Tom for the article on Google Plus %email’. When they get to their email again they are online anyway and can look the article up real quick.

Online articles are split up in 3 categories: 1) ‘Surfing’, 2) Social Media and 3) RSS Feeds.

  1. Surfing articles. Of course sometime you are just wandering across the internet. And sometimes you stumble upon something awesome and want to read it later. You need to install the Read It Later bookmarklet on your browser for this situations. When you come across something awesome just hit the ‘Read It Later’ button and it will be saved to read later! (Install this bookmarklet also on your mobile browsers!)
  2. Social Media. This means most of all  Twitter of course. You can install a special app within Twitter with Read It Later where you can hit ‘Read Later’ and the link will be saved to read later. So this is really convenient to do. But what is the most important with Twitter is to create a list. I’ve a list called ‘Interesting’ with people who don’t very often tweet about what they are eating or where they are heading. This list contains most of all people who share interesting stuff. So I have all the ‘link-potential-people’ in one place and this means I only spend a short time on Twitter to scan if I won’t miss anything!
  3. RSS Feeds. If you come across one blog more often and you know (most of) the articles are going to be interesting subscribe to it with RSS! I have around 50 subscriptions to different blogs. Once a week I go across all of them and scan articles real quick. If the article is read-worthy I ‘star’ it which means it will be downloaded in Read It Later automatically with IFTTT. The way I’ve set this up is explained below.

Sharing happens from within the Read It Later app. If the article was good, I like to share it on Twitter, basically because I want other people to read it as well. I tweet both in Dutch (my native language and the language of the country where I live in), so I try to read the Dutch articles during the morning and tweet it right out (and tweet in Dutch, the US people will be sleeping) and I read the English articles in the evening, when the American fokes are awake as well!

For sharing you need the Read It Later Pro app, I think it is worth the 4$, because it is a service where I would like to pay for anyway and I think when you are sharing important content your social value will increase. So yes, it is a little investment, but worth the money.

Read It Later System: The Flowchart

Click on the flowchart to enlarge and see how the flowchart is build up. This is exactly how I approach all of my readings.

I check Google Reader and Toodledo once a week (sunday night preferably) to see what I want to read in the upcoming week. The thing with Google Reader is that the feeds are interesting but not every post will be interesting. So I can serve as a human filter to filter out the non-interesting articles and filter in the interesting only 😉

Read It Later System FlowchartClick the image to enlarge or click here.

Setting up the system

You don’t need to be tech savvy for this system, although it will help. The services are mainstream and made for people without any knowledge of code and everything. But I want to share a couple of links to make sure you set up everything correct.

  1. Saving from the web to Read It Later with a bookmarklet
  2. Saving from Twitter app to Read It Later with a bookmarklet (explained in the app)
  3. Sharing from Read It Later to Twitter (explained in the app)
  4. Connect Captio with Toodledo
  5. Setting up IFTTT is explained below.

Setting up IFTTT with Google Reader and Read It Later

To use IFTTT you will need an invite. You can get on the list at IFTTT.com or you can have one of the first 25 comments on this post asking for an invite to get one of the 25 invites I can give away.

Setting up IFTTT is really easy. Below you will see screenshots of how I did it.

Create a task

 

If this will be: starring an item on Google Reader

and then that will be: save to Read It Later.

Missing Things

This system will always be changing. And it will needs some changes, because it isn’t really flawless yet.

  • I miss tags. In one way or the other, tags aren’t really coming through. Need to find a way to get that, if you know of a way, please shoot me an email.
  • The articles weren’t really ‘findable’  afterwards. Now, you can actually send from Read It Later to Evernote and that is what I do right now. I’m going to think of another way as well, because this requires a little too much right now (I know, I’m lazy).
And that is it! Well, that is off my chest, over 1800 words! Never pumped out that much words before. It took me a Sunday, but I’m glad I can share this system now with you guys! Don’t forget to leave a comment to get an invite from me for IFTTT!

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