The Secret Power of 'Read It Later' Apps
The Secret Power of 'Read It Later' Apps stories

tdawg202Community member
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I run productivity consultancy Forte Labs at

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The Secret Power of 'Read It Later' Apps

by Tiago Forte

I read over 1 million words in a 'read it later' app in 2014

At the end of 2014 I received an email informing me that I had read over a million words in the ‘read it later’ app Pocket over the course of the year.

What makes this number significant

It represents 22 books-worth of long-form reading that would not have happened without a system in place.

Person spends 127 hrs/yr on Instagram

which is the global average. And then complains that she has "no time" for reading.

The fact is:

The ability to read is becoming a source of competitive advantage in the world

I'm not talking about basic literacy.

What's become exceeding scarce (and therefore valuable):

The physical, emotional, attentional, and mental capability to sit quietly and direct focused attention for sustained periods of time.

A new term: Attention Deficit Trait

Basically, the terms ADD and ADHD are falling out of use because effectively the entire population fits the diagnostic criteria. It’s not a condition anymore, it’s a trait .

"Read It Later" apps = save content for later consumption

They are essentially advanced bookmarking apps, pulling in the content from a page to be read or viewed in a cleaner, simpler visual layout.

Popular options are:

Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, Send to Kindle, Feedly, and Safari's built-in "Add to reading List" feature

I use Pocket

Through a Chrome extension, I can quickly save webpages. You can view your list in a "tile" layout, making it into essentially a personalized magazine.

The highest leverage point of the system is the intake

the initial assumptions and paradigms that inform its development. I want to focus on 2 ways Read It Later apps help with improving quality of content.

1) Increasing consumption of long-form content

In order to consume good ideas, first you have to consume many ideas. Using your friends as your primary filter for new ideas ensures you remain the dumbest person in the room.

Our entire digital world is geared towards snackable content

Chunks of low-grade information — photos, tweets, statuses, snaps, feeds, cards, etc. To fight the tide you have to redesign your environment — you have to create affordances.


a relation between an object and an organism that, through a collection of stimuli, affords the opportunity for that organism to perform an action.

How Read It Later overcomes 4 barriers to long-form content

1) App performance: removes ads, analytics, etc. speeding things up 2) Matching content with context: magazine flipping pleasure of finding something interesting right in that moment

3) Asynchronous reading - saves your progress, allowing you to pick back up at a different time or on a different device 4) Focus - Actionable info =/= reference info =/= to read pile.

2) Better Filtering

Now you’ve got the funnel filled. It’s time to narrow it.

Most advice on this topic = be selective about your sources

Cutting out the email digests that just throw you off track, unfollowing people posting crap, or even directly replacing ads with quality sources.

The problem:

This assumes you are always at your best, always at 100% self-discipline, totally aligned with your life values, priorities ship shape. Procrastination is the most powerful force in the universe

I have a different approach: waiting periods.

Every time I come across something I may want to read/watch, I’m totally allowed to. No limits! The only requirement is I have to save it to Pocket, and then choose to consume it at a later time.

Even clicking a link is too much temptation

The first glimpse of a cute GIF and I’m off to Reddit, completely forgetting my morning email session. Instead, I open each link in a new tab without taking me to that tab.

There’s only one rule: NO READING OR WATCHING!

I’m time-shifting the curation process

To a time better suited for reading, and (most critically) removed from the temptations, stresses, and biopsychosocial hooks that first lured me in.

I am always amazed by what happens:

no matter how stringent I was in the original collecting, no matter how certain I was that this thing was worthwhile, I regularly eliminate 1/3 of my list before reading.

I'm essentially creating a buffer

I’m creating a pool of options drawn from a longer time period, which allows me to make decisions from a higher perspective, where those decisions are much better aligned with what truly matters

Imagine if we could do this with everything.

Anything you decide was not worthwhile, you get that time back. I experienced this recently with email. I more correctly judged whether something was worth responding to.

There are drawbacks. The 2 main ones:

1) Formatting issues - many sites aren't presented correctly and some links are removed 2) Dependence - I've become so dependent on Pocket that bugs really affect me

The amount of information in the world is a progress trap.

Too much stuff to read is just as limiting as too little. There’s way too much to absorb. Way too much to even guess what you don’t know.

Only metric that will matter in your personal growth: ROL

ROL: Rate-of-Learning. We’ve heard a lot in recent years about the importance of hands-on learning and practical experimentation. We get it. Burying your head in a book by itself gets you nowhere

But, you CAN be too action-oriented

Ideas, while cheap when compared to effective execution, are still more valuable than many of the other things we spend time on.

There’s another way to learn faster

Assimilate and build on the ideas of others. You can incorporate many of the lessons and in a fraction of the time it would take you to make every mistake yourself.

Reading is the closest thing to thinking another’s thoughts

Like an inter-dimensional wormhole, one entangled particle in your brain mirroring its twin across a chasm more vast than the universe -the chasm between 2 minds

And that is the secret power of Read It Later apps

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