How to Manage the Articles You Fall in Love With
Are you surrounded by piles of your favorite magazines? Are you attached to what you read and think if you throw it away now it’s gone forever… never to be found again… and (sob, sniff) you’ll never remember how to find it anywhere else… ever again… not even on the Internet? Oh, the tragic loss…
Or maybe you haven’t even read your magazines. Maybe they’re just piling up around you and you’re collecting them, but you’re not even sure if you’ll have the time to read them all. Maybe you know you don’t have the time, but you’re reluctant to let them go. Could this be you?
Well, I won’t be prying off the white-knuckle grip you have on your multitude of magazines today, but what I will share with you are some tips for those of you who’ve actually read your magazines and have fallen in love with one or more articles. What to do, oh, what to do with the many articles you love?
And by the way, today’s article was born from a question from a Work Day Wonders reader who read my July 2010 article called “Reading Resuscitation.” It covered The 7 Steps to Revive Your Reading or Retire It for Good and she wanted to know what to do with the articles after she read them and wanted to keep them for an extended period of time. So here goes.
First I’ll address the two most common uses for articles and then I’ll go through 4 steps for the best magazine management.
1. Articles for ideas
If an article sparks an idea, it could be actionable now or great for later and you may or may not need to actually keep the article.
a. f it’s actionable now, decide what the first step is and note it on your Task list with an action date
– a “do” date – so you can get this going, whatever it is.
b. If it’s not actionable yet and you want to park this idea somewhere, add it to an “Ideas” list and include as much information from the article as possible so you can throw the article away. And be sure to follow up periodically to review your Ideas list.
If you need the article when you’re ready to take action because of a photo, picture, diagram or other information in the article, then it’s considered “reference” material. Keep it in a file named appropriately so you can find it when you need it.
1. Articles for reference
First, be really sure you’ll want or need this information in the future. Be selective! Even the reader who requested this article said in her e-mail, “OK, I often never refer to them. A year later, I end up tossing most. :)” So there you go…
Be really clear on what’s so special about the article you’re holding in your hand that you want to keep. Are you really going to look for it in 6 months? A year? If you can explain why it’s so good to keep – and say it like you mean it – then you’ve justified keeping it.
Here’s what you can do with your favorite articles…
Step #1: Tear ‘em out
Tear out the articles you want to keep or cut them out with a razor knife. These pages will take up less space than a whole magazine in a file, in a binder or on a bookshelf and the articles that spark great ideas may even be tossed once you’ve noted the idea on your Task list.
Step #2: Binders and boxes are out!
I suggest you file the articles you want to keep for reference. I actually don’t recommend using binders or magazine boxes in which to store your magazines, even though you may have organized them in date order and put a Post-It Note® on the front cover telling you what you liked.
Why? Because you’ll still waste lots of time looking for the magazines, the articles or the Post-it Notes® on the covers to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Unless you have an extraordinary indexing system, down to the year, month, volume, date, page number, title, etc… then you’re going to waste lots of time looking for what you want. And if you rarely refer to the articles you indexed, you’ve just wasted time creating an amazing index you’ll never use.
And binders are “high-maintenance” since you have to punch holes and all that. It’s just faster to drop something into a file.
Step #3: Don’t leave them out
Don’t leave your articles hanging out in piles. Create files for them as you need them and keep your categories broad and general to begin with. You’ll want to be able to add to your files again and again and have them not be so specific that nothing else will belong. When a file becomes too fat, then it’s time to break it down.
Step #4: Keep an eye out
Watch your collection as it grows. On most occasions, people eventually throw away what they’ve kept because they realize they’ve not looked at what they kept! I see this happen with my clients all the time and I’ll remind you again that the reader who requested this article did that too.
Add a task to your Task list to review your files, especially “idea” files, on a regular basis. Maybe every month, every quarter or twice a year, but whatever you do, don’t ignore them for too long. You saved these articles because they were supposed to be useful, right? So put them to good use or toss them for good!