The Working With… Podcast

How To Organise Your To Read and Watch Lists

August 16, 2021

Do you have a lot of articles, videos and newsletters to read but find it difficult to find the time to read or watch them? Don’t worry, you’re not alone and the good news is there are a few strategies you can use that gets these lists under control.


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Episode 194 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 194 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

These days, there are so many fantastic articles and videos to watch that even if we took a week off, we’d still not be able to catch up with our reading and to watch lists. So, two questions come to mind: where can I store these and how can I find time to read and watch them? And those are what I hope to answer for you this week. 

Now, before we get to the question and answer, just a quick heads up that if you like the content I share with you in these podcasts and want to learn more, I do have a YouTube channel dedicated to productivity, goal planning and time management, as well as a weekly blog. Plus if you sign up for my learning centre, you receive exclusively a weekly learning note designed to help you with your productivity and goals journey. 

All you have to do is get yourself enrolled in my FREE COD course (Collect, Organise and DO) and you will receive the weekly learning note. Full details, as usual, are in the show notes.

Okay, on with the show and that means it’s time for me now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice, for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Barry. Barry asks, Hi Carl, I have a lot of articles to read and videos to watch and I find myself consuming these when I should be doing more important work. Are there any tips you can share that will help me to manage these better?

Hi Barry, thank you for your question.

This is certainly a problem many people struggle with. There are so many fantastic videos and articles out there that could help us improve our overall time management and productivity, yet there is precious little time available to watch or read these. 

Before we get into how to save these and when to watch or read them, let’s first look at where they are coming from.

Many people subscribe to newsletters that come to us through our email. But how many of you actually read these newsletters? If you look at the statistics on newsletters, for instance, the average open rate is less than 30% and the click rate—the number of times a link is clicked—is less than 5% of those that open the newsletter. If you are not opening a newsletter, and statically that means at least 70% of you, then you need to unsubscribe from that newsletter. 

A few years ago, I found I was subscribed to over 30 newsletters. It meant I was getting at least five newsletters per day and it was impossible to read them all. I had to do something to reduce this list. What I did was monitor over one month, which newsletters I opened and which ones I skimmed through—just looking at the headlines. 

At the end of the month, I found I only read around five of these regularly and the rest were just taking up digital space and pretty much were deleted almost the moment they came in. So, I unsubscribed from the twenty-five I was not reading. Even to this day, I only have five newsletters I subscribe to. 

There is a problem we all face and that is FOMO—the Fear Of Missing Out. We feel if we are not reading these newsletters, we are going to miss something. The reality is you are not missing out on anything. You’re not reading them anyway and If something was important in your industry or company, someone would tell you and if you needed to, you could ask them to send you a copy of the relevant article or newsletter. 

So, first up, stop worrying about what you may be missing out on. If you’re not reading something consistently, then unsubscribe from or junk the email. 

A quick tip here. I’ve found unsubscribing to some newsletters results in more unsolicited mails arriving. I believe this is because when we click the unsubscribe button we confirm our email is active. I’ve found a better way to manage this is to send the email to your junk folder. Modern email apps, very quickly learn when an email is junk and will automatically junk the email for you. This way you are not confirming your email address to unscrupulous actors. 

Next up with this is to set a reading deadline. By this I mean if you haven’t read the newsletter within a specified number of days, you must delete it. Let me give you an example of this:

I subscribe to James Clear’s 3,2,1 weekly newsletter. It usually arrives in my inbox around 11pm on a Thursday and by then I am usually in the middle of my closing down routine. So, I send the email to my action this day folder. 

Anything in there needs to be dealt with in less than 24 hours, so this means I have 24 hours in which to read the newsletter. If I don’t do it, I have to delete the email. That little rule ensures I don’t leave this newsletter laying around collecting dust. From the moment I move it to my actionable folder, it must be read within 24 hours. 

The worst thing you can do is to have a “To read” folder in your email. I haven’t met anyone who has been able to control this folder for very long. Pretty quickly they become a dumping ground for emails you will never read, but think one day you might do. You won’t. So get rid of that folder. It will not work for you. Instead, if you do get something you think you will read, put it in your actionable email folder and if you haven’t read it within say, 48 hours, delete it. 

Next up, what about articles you find online that you want to read later? 

Well, if you’re using a notes app such as Evernote or OneNote, you have a web clipper that will save the article to your notes app. This is a fantastic feature full of inherent dangers similar to a “to read” folder in email. You’re going to clip a lot of articles you never read. 

The problem here is your notes app quickly becomes overwhelmed with a lot of stuff. There is also the problem with these articles disappearing under a lot of other notes you are collecting each day. Plus, there is no filter. 

What I mean by there being no “filter” is we dump these articles into our notes app, some of you may process them and save them into a “to read” folder and then never have the time to go into that folder. Soon, you will have hundreds of unread articles. The question is: when will you sit down and read them? The reality for most people is, never. We are just too busy. 

So what can you do here? 

My advice is to use a read later service such as Instapaper or Pocket. These services are designed to save articles you want to read in a simple text-based format (fewer distractions). This is great because there’s no rush to read these articles and it gives you an opportunity to filter the articles first. If you like what you read, you can then save the article into your notes app for reference later. 

I’ve been using Instapaper for years and before I shut down for the day, I usually give myself twenty to thirty minutes to read through my articles. I have it set up so the oldest article is at the top, which makes sure no article goes unread for very long. 

And this is the trick. To keep on top of these, you want to be setting aside twenty to thirty minutes each day for reading. This way, these services are never likely to become overwhelming. Perhaps you like to read in the morning, if so, make reading through these articles part of your morning routines. Or, like me, you like to end the day reading. Whichever way you do it, a small amount of time dedicated to reading through your collected articles will help you to say on top of them. 

Next up, what about videos you want to watch. 

The issue here is they can be difficult to discover. Some may be sent to you via a newsletter—one of my top newsletters is Tom Bilyeu's Impact Theory newsletter. In this newsletter, I get to see who Tom has been interviewing this week. I can then decide if that is something I would want to watch. If so, I open the video and save it in my watch later list. 

I do the same with YouTube channels I subscribe to. I review these every few days and if there is anything I want to watch, I click “add the watch later”. 

I like to end my day with around thirty minutes of learning and often I use YouTube for this. All I need do is open my watch later list and watch whatever video I feel like watching that day. Because I am doing this in my final thirty minutes before bed, I rarely watch for too long. I am tired and so thirty minutes or so helps me to unwind and relax before going to bed. 

I also have a catch-up night each week where I give myself permission to watch whatever I like for two to three hours. It's a great way to unwind and stop thinking about work—unless I want to. 

If you have a bad habit of watching videos well past your bedtime, I would suggest you set an alarm to remind you to stop and go to bed. You need not worry, the video will still be there tomorrow. 

Just remember to clear out any videos you have watched so the list doesn’t become overwhelmed. 

When should you be reading and watching all this content you have saved? 

Here I’ve found the best way to read and consume all this content is to set aside time for it. It doesn’t have to be every day. As I said about watching videos, I allow myself two to three hours of vegetating on the sofa on a Saturday to catch up with anything I want to watch. This could be a movie, a comedy show or some of my favourite YouTuber’s videos. It’s completely free. 

For reading, I like to read while I eat my breakfast. So for me, I do intermittent fasting and my first meal of the day is at 12pm. That’s when I read through any articles I’ve saved. It’s 30 minutes or so and it’s a nice break from writing or recording something. 

If you can find thirty minutes or so each day, you will stay on top of your reading list. The most important thing to remember is if you are just collecting and not doing anything with it—why are you collecting it in the first place? 

For a lot of things like exercising, reading, doing an online course etc, you are going to need time. If you’re not scheduling time for it, you are not going to do it. You need to escape from thinking that ‘one day' you’ll have time. No, you won’t. If reading articles and newsletters or watching videos is something you want to do, you need to schedule time for it. 

Reading these articles and watching these videos is, for the most part, learning and education. I know a lot of what I watch and read each week are articles around time management and productivity as well as achieving goals, so for me, this is important time. It’s part of my self-development area of focus and so, I have time set aside for it each day. I certainly don’t feel guilty about doing it. 

So there you go, Barry. I hope that has helped. The biggest thing you can do to ensure you are reading these articles and watching these videos is to set aside time for doing it. Early in the morning, lunchtime or evening are good times. But whenever you decide to do it, be intentional and consistent about it.

Thank you for your question and thank you to you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 


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