February 17, 2015

You don’t have to read everything

I’m not the only one with an overflowing Instapaper (or Pocket, or whatever) queue. A lot of people save more articles than they have time to read, and even if they don’t, they want to read more articles than they do. It’s not that hard to understand why, because there’s a lot of content published every day, on so many sites, or even in print, and the notion of being able to read everything you think you want to read is ridiculous. You can’t.

Let me say that again: You can’t read everything you think you want to read.

Instapaper and Pocket and Safari’s reading list, and whatever bookmarking tool you use, or even your web browser’s open tabs, they’re all examples of yet another inbox to manage. There’s a lot of whining about email, and how it’s broken, but with that logic, so is whatever tool you’re using to keep track of what you think you want to read. It’s another thing to manage, to organize, and to get through, for that oh so lovely feeling of inbox zero. It’s there, even if you don’t actually look at your reading list as an inbox, the same feeling’s there. I love when my Instapaper queue is empty, and I loathe it as well, because that means that I’ve read everything I thought I wanted to read.

And yes, I purposely write that these are things you think you want to read, keyword being think. You don’t know if an article’s going to be worth your time from the get-go, and thus you think it’s something to read. That’s the big problem really, the fear of missing out on something great. If I don’t read this, I’ll be clueless, I won’t understand, I’ll miss out. That’s the myth we’re collectively feeding, and it’s bullshit. Most of the things you think that you want to read, are barely worth reading. Some are, definitely, but not reading a read-worthy piece rarely makes a dent in your life, nor the universe, and thus you’re fine. We’re all fine.

I think it’s a great thing to have more things to read than I can manage. It might seem stressful at first, but when you realize that you don’t actually have to read everything, it’s a relief, and an asset.

Got a few minutes to kill? Read something. Bored? Read something. Tired of TV? Read something. Just generally tired, but not ready to go to bed yet? Read something.

It’s that simple. So throw away those feelings of being inadequate, and of being a failure because you can’t find the time, nor the energy, to read everything you think the world needs you to read. Accept the fact that you can’t, nor need to, read everything. After that, things are a lot easier to deal with. You might even end up reading more.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.