Tools I use – Instapaper as a GTD capture and review bucket

I’ve been a long term user of Instapaper, especially of Marco Arment’s excellent iOS app. I understand there is even an Android application available. Let me illustrate how I use it in my workflow.

Gathering inputs

I have a rather long commute to work. It takes me about 15 minutes by car and then another 45 minutes by train, followed by a 10 minute walk. What is great about it is that the two times 45 minutes by train per day give me the time to write and read. As the 3G availability on the train is bad to non-existent, I usually read what is in my reading queue. Enter Instapaper.

My Google Reader and Fever client (Reeder, subject for another review) allows me to easily send articles to be read to Instapaper (i.e. the capture phase). I do this for articles I would like to read, instead of articles I need to read, which I put into Evernote (yet another review). Instapaper is my true ‘to read sometime’ review bucket. Before I started to commute by train I never got around to review this bucket, now I am fairly up to speed.

Up to date at all times, with minimal effort

Instapaper’s geolocation support allows for easy synchronisation when I am close to a friendly wifi source, so I really don’t have to worry about synchronisation. My articles are with me at all times, on my iOS device (usually my iPad).

From bucket to to-do list in one simple step

So, I’m on the train, with my synchronized articles which I want to read. I go through them one by one. Instapaper has a choice of fonts and lay-outs, some of which are optimized for the iPad’s retina display, if you care about that. It’s kinda nice you have this level of customization available to you, on the other hand, as with many tools, too many buttons and features may actually distract. Marco Arment has erred on the side of caution here … but still I am sometimes distracted into tweaking my Instapaper set-up.

Going through my articles, I apply a simple GTD algorithm: it’s either a next action which I can do here and now (using the 2 minute rule), a next action which needs to land into my task list, a task to be delegated or a document to be thrashed. Let’s go over how Instapaper supports each of these choices:

  1. Next action now: this is not necessarily directly supported in Instapaper, but iOS makes it easy to switch between an article and any other application. Instapaper allows me to copy the full text which I can then easily paste into any text editor I want to use.
  2. Next action later: Instapaper allows for very easy export to Omnifocus or Evernote. As I use both tools, I’ve usually worked with export to Omnifocus. One (small) gripe is that this function only exports the URL, and not the text in its entirety. I’ve recently adapted my workflow and for those situations in which I need direct access to the document, I send the task through Evernote with a ‘review’ tag attached to it. This in combination with a script on my iMac at home makes sure it gets processed and send to Omnifocus with a link to Evernote.
  3. Delegation: As Instapaper allows for email full text, I can easily send an article with some comments to a collaborator or a client and have them work on it. Of course, good delegation practices apply.
  4. Thrash document: Of course, documents that I’ve read and that have no further direct value can either be deleted or archived into the Instapaper archive queue.

In conclusion

Instapaper is my one and only “want to read” bucket. Given the functionality of the tool and its many export functions, it is an excellent bucket application. It integrates well in my workflow.

Instapaper article interface
Instapaper article interface
Instapaper's update location menu, highlighting its geofencing usage
Instapaper’s update location menu, highlighting its geofencing usage
Instapaper's 'share' interface
Instapaper’s ‘share’ interface