Using OmniFocus as a Read-It-Later Service

Throughout the day, I come across many articles, videos, and even songs that I want to read, watch, or listen to. But for whatever reason, I am too busy to deal with it at the time of seeing it. This is where read-it-later type services come in. These services give you a central repository for you to add content to consume at a later time. Services such as Pocket and Instapaper have gained a lot of popularity in the past few years as people consume more and more content online.

I started out using Pocket as my Read-it-later service because it was available on every platform, and was extremely easy to get content into with plugins for my preferred RSS reader and Twitter client. The problem with Pocket is that it wanted you to consume the content from within the app. For some things, like fairly standard blogs and news sites, this works fine. Pocket strips out many of the distraction on pages, such as ads and navigations elements. A problem arises when you try and add anything besides static HTML web pages to Pocket. For example, when I would try and add a Soundcloud link, Pocket would freak out and have no idea what to do with it since it isn’t static text in HTML.

With Pocket’s problems, I tried Pinboard. Pinboard is great because of it’s simplicity. It acts as a database of links that you can easily tag and organize. There is a dedicated unread section that is meant to act as a read-it-later service. It’s meant to be built up over time, and you can search through it to find articles you saved. The problem with Pinboard is that I have no use for a personal index of links. If Google didn’t exist, then maybe I would want to keep track of all the things that I’ve read or watched. But if I need to find something that I’ve seen before, it’s easier for me to just Google it rather than looking in some other database.
While Pocket and Pinboard were doing what I wanted, I realized that the act of reading/watching/listening to this content is nothing more than a task that I want to deal with at a later time. So the most logical way to save these links for later was to add them into my task management system. Omnifocus, my task manager of choice, has many features that allow me to effectively sort through all the content that I need to deal with.

To start, I created a master project called TCL (to consume later). This allows me to organize all of the links in a central locations. Next, I have three new contexts: To Watch, To Listen, and To Read. This allows me to separate different mediums that I might want to consume at a time. Throughout the day, I will create tasks for any type of content that I want to remember to deal with later. On macOS, its normally using the built in Omnifocus share extension. I will title the task whatever I want, and then it will put the link in the notes field. Later, I will go through and add all of these tasks to TCL and assign them the correct context. On my iPhone and iPad, I made a custom
Workflow that grabs the link, automatically puts it in the TCL project, and prompts the user which context they’d like to apply. You can find that workflow here.

So far this new method has worked very well for me. It allows me to forget about this content until I have time to go back through and sort through them, which is the whole point of a read-it-later service. I also don’t have to worry about another service to manage.