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From Piles to Smiles® organizing and productivity service provides personalized, non-judgmental, professional coaching and hands-on organizing assistance that can help you claim control of your hectic personal and business life.

Pare Down Your Reading Backlog


Organizing and productivity ideas to help you experience the simplicity, harmony and freedom of being organized and in control.

Pare Down Your Reading Backlog

Sue Becker

Email, social media, blogs, online resources, books, physical magazines & newspapers – oh my! There’s a plethora of reading material vying for our attention, and while the information conveyed in these media can be quite valuable, it’s meaningless if you don’t actually take the time to read it. How well are you keeping up with your accumulation of reading material? Here are some ideas to keep that reading backlog under control. With a bit of self-discipline, as well as a discerning evaluation of all the possibilities, you can prevent a reading pileup, both at home and at work.

Have a place for reading material. A basket or magazine rack can corral your physical reading pile; a “To Read” folder can be used to collect emails that require more than a quick response; and an electronic tool like Evernote can be used to gather electronic articles and website links you’d like to dig into.

Set aside reading time. Have you told yourself you’ll read when you have time, but you never seem to have time? You might have more success by scheduling reading time on your calendar. Another option is to make a habit of reading at a particular time (e.g., Thursday nights from 9 to 10 p.m., or every day for 15 minutes before you go to bed). At a minimum, make time to read whenever your physical reading container is full (don’t cheat and get a huge reading container), or when your electronic capture places have more than a given number of items in them (shall we say 15?). You can use otherwise wasted waiting time (at the doctor’s office, in line at the grocery store, on the train or bus, etc.) to catch up on your reading as well. I have a hard time making time for reading because I always feel there’s something “more important” that I should be doing. So, I use car trips (fear not – only when my husband is driving), and plane and train rides to do most of my reading.

Differentiate your reading stockpile. Recognize that you may be able to skim articles from “fun” sources (e.g., a hobby magazine) while those of a more serious nature (e.g., a news website) may require more thorough reading. In addition, you may be able to read the fun stuff just about anywhere and at any time, while the more intense reading needs to take place in a quite setting when your mind is alert.

Give yourself a deadline. If you receive a new issue of a periodical but you haven’t yet read the previous one, give yourself a deadline to read the old issue – maybe two or three days. After that, get rid of the old periodical, or at least cull the items of interest from it. Otherwise, your backlog will continue to grow, and you may never get caught up. You can follow a similar approach for blog feeds and other electronic subscriptions.

Evaluate your backlog. If you seem to consistently fall behind on reading certain resources, determine why. Maybe your tastes or interests have changed, and topics you previously enjoyed are no longer relevant to you. It may be time to cancel some magazine subscriptions or unsubscribe from some newsfeeds.