Instapaper

Instapaper is a new online bookmarking service from the creator of Tumblr (which drives my side project The Random Post). Unlike other popular online bookmarking sites, like del.icio.us, Instapaper has no social component, no tags, no bells and whistles. It just allows one to quickly bookmark a page for later reading.

Those who know me know that I am a sucker for any tool that does things in a simple, minimalist way. I love applications that do one thing, do it very well, give you very few features beyond what you absolutely need, thus providing little distraction for the task at hand. Everything about Instapaper is simple. Sign up with an e-mail address or username (no password necessary), drag the “Read Later” bookmarklet to your browsers toolbar, that’s it. Then, as you are surfing, click the bookmarklet while on any page you want to catalog for later reading. When you are ready to read, go to Instapaper, log in with your credentials, and there is everything you marked in a simple, orderly list. Reading an item on the list causes it to drop down to a “Recently Read” list. There is also a button beside the item to “skip” it and read it later (which then creates a “Recently Skipped” list). Brilliant!

The page also looks great on mobile devices like the (coveted) iPhone or the (beloved) Nokia N800/810. Therefore, when you find yourself stuck waiting somewhere and you have some internet access, you can whip open Instapaper and have something to occupy your time.

After using it for only a few hours I must admit what a revelation this is to me. Previously, I spread such things across multiple services with no real system of followup or easy from anywhere access. I have since, gone through all of those other places and added those items to Instapaper.

Outsourcing E-mail

I was recently discussing some of the money making strategies used by Tim Ferriss, blogger and author of the very popular book “The 4-Hour Workweek“, with a friend of mine. Despite the fact that some have questioned whether it is possible to really achieve the level of anti-productive zen the book espouses, there are still many take away items that can be employed to one degree or another in our own lives. The idea of creating sources of constant income that require little to no maintenance for instance, but I digress…

The upshot of what my friend responded back with was that they did not believe that even Tim himself was able to truly walk the walk. The basis for this theory was (paraphrasing here), “I wrote him an e-mail once and got back a very long personal reply from him.”

My response, “It was probably not from him directly. I bet he outsources that too.”

Well, true enough, Tim outlines exactly how he does that in a recent post to his blog. His strategy:

> “For the last 12 months, I’ve experimented with removing myself from the inbox entirely by training other people to behave like me. Not to imitate me, but to think like me.”

Not only does he outline the strategies he uses to achieve this, he also includes the actual set of rules he gives to his Virtual Assistants to help them process almost any e-mail as if he were doing it himself.

Just like the book, you may not be able to do exactly what he does. That being said, there are still many smaller time saving strategies one can take away from this. Here are some of my favorites

* Pre-written replies for commonly asked questions – Are you are in a position where you often have people ask you the same questions. Why reinvent the wheel for every reply. Have the same one always ready to go.

* Send social networking requests straight to the trash-bin or archive – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other friend requests can all be handled the next time you log into those services. No need to have them clutter up your Inbox.

* Cluster tasks via context – GTD folks will be familiar with this idea. Set aside times of the day for dealing with e-mail, returning phone calls, etc. and only those times. Cluster like tasks together via context. Be Pavlov, not the dog.

This is just the start. There are so many thought provoking ideas in here that it is really worth the time of reading it all. Then, if that has you going, delve into some of his other posts. There is so much nougaty goodness inside the candy shell.

The Holy Grail: How to Outsource the Inbox and Never Check Email Again

Remainders 01.19.2008

Here we go again. Yet another rundown of some of my cool finds as I drift away on the internet…

Proving that you can implement the Getting Things Done system with anything, Kelly Forrister of DavidCo shares an Excel template for GTD that she designed for a client. My little Excel addict, Princess Bethany, would be quite proud.

Are you using Jott yet? Why not? It is the greatest invention since the delete key. I mean, you can make voice notes and have them translated into text and dispatched off to you e-mail inbox, friends or a variety other services. And it’s free! It is truly every kind of awesome. Not only that but Dustin Wax at Lifehack.org has an excellent tutorial on using it to get your GTD on.

Merlin wants to remind you that, while you are doing that capture, via Jott or any other method, make sure you give as much context to that capture as is needed to remember what it is about.

I have to say, it is nice to see Gina at Lifehacker catching the Levenger Circa bug. Addiction LOVES company.

Speaking of Gina and GTD, she practices a much simplified version of it that may just be a revelation to you.

Finally on the GTD front, if you are having issues with getting on board and staying on board, perhaps you need to follow Brett Kelly’s advice and learn that this is about getting into a habit. Getting a system down and working it. Capture, Process, Do, Review, Rinse, Repeat.

Oh, and don’t forget my three favorite productivity tools – The Trash Can, The Delete Key, and The Word “No”.

David Seah has updated all of his print-it-yourself task planning forms for the new year including his wonderful Emergent Task Planner. I use this at work frequently when I want to drill down and focus in on getting a few tasks done. I use them enough that I bought some of the pre-printed version. Good stuff.

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