Do you have a gigantic list of bookmarks you keep meaning to deal with? I think everyone does. You probably started by bookmarking stuff and storing it in your browser, intending to do something with them in the future. But then, as your list grew, you thought it would be more helpful if they were sorted and categorized into a system like Delicious.
But chances are, you’re not going through them as quickly as you want to be. To borrow language from David Allen’s GTD system, your bookmarks are a giant cluttered inbox that you’re not doing anything with.
So here is a simple 3 step system to deal with many of those bookmarks. My focus here is helping you deal with those bookmarks for your business (although you probably could augment these steps to deal with bookmarks of all those cat-related videos you’ve been collecting).
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Before you begin, you need to have some sorting categories set up. You need a way to look at the content of a link and decide what to do with the information. I suggest that you list out some categories that make sense for your business. Here are some examples:
- Not surprisingly, my favorite bookmark categories are related to my business’ sales funnel. The categories are use are: “Business Models/Branding/Business Building”, “Marketing/Lead Generation”, “List-building/Prospect-Relationships”, “Sales”, “Delivery and Customer Service”, “Administration/Finance”. See how most of those are related to my sales funnel, either directly or in a supporting role?
- You can use the Business Model Canvas.
- You can use the Business Diamond Framework.
- You can use the well-known McKinsey 7S Strategy Framework.
Whatever you choose to use, make sure it is small enough so that you’re not focused on the minutia of categorization but make sure that it is broad enough so that it covers all aspects of your business. (For example, I have a lot of links about content marketing, content strategy, SEO, and blogging. It’s tempting to categorize them all separately but it adds a layer of time-consuming complexity that you don’t really need. Plus, a lot of content will overlap from one topic to another. So higher-level categories like the ones I’ve described above work well. I can easily slot bookmarks that talk about content marketing, content strategy, SEO, and blogging into a “Marketing” category. It’s a fast decision and it makes sense).
Set up these categories in your bookmarking system (i.e., if you’re bookmarking in your browser, create folders for each of these categories. If you’re bookmarking in Delicious, consider using tags with these names).
Important: You don’t have to sort all of your bookmarks into these categories before you begin. You just need to have the categories there.
GETTING READY TO SORT YOUR BOOKMARKS
When you want to sort your bookmarks, here’s what you need to have:
- Your browser open.
- Your productivity/time management system open — i.e. your calendar or your to-do list or whatever. I use Evernote plus GTD so that’s what I have open.
- Your list of categories nearby
STEP 1: CLICK THE LINK
Click the link and read the content. At the first glance, you should be able to see what category it fits into. (You don’t have to file it yet, but knowing the category gives you some context around what to do with the information you’ll be reading).
STEP 2: VIEW THE CONTENT
Read the content or watch the video or download and read the PDF (or whatever the bookmark is). As you view the content, write down some to-dos you gain from that content.
For example, maybe you read something from SEOmoz about linkbuilding. Try to come up with one or more tasks from that content. Immediately put it into your productivity system: “Perform a link audit” on my blog.
STEP 3: DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH THE LINK
This is what will save you from going crazy in the future: Decide what to do with the link using the following chart. Decide whether the link is practical (i.e. you get a lot of tasks out of it) or inspiring (i.e. no tasks but you enjoy reading it because it is motivating).
And, decide whether the link is a one-time-only link (i.e. you only need to read it once) or ongoing (i.e. it doesn’t hurt to read it several times).
- Practical/One-time bookmarks: Some links are great to read once, they provide you with some good tasks to grow your business, but you’ll never use them again. Delete those links. Once you have the tasks, you don’t need the content anymore. I give you permission to delete them.
- Practical/Timeless bookmarks: Some links are great to read, they provide you with some good tasks to grow your business, and you’ll use them again in the future. Categorize those links and schedule time to review them again in 3 or 6 months.
- Inspiring/One-time bookmarks: Some links are great to read but you don’t get any specific tasks out them. They were interesting, informational, and maybe at one time they provided more meaning than they do now. Delete them.
- Inspiring/Timeless bookmarks: Some links are great to read, they are inspiring and timeless, but you don’t get any specific tasks out them. (I have lots of these. They are inspiring, motivational, and often case studies of other successful business owners). Put those in a separate marked “Inspiring”. Schedule time to review those regularly (maybe one link a week or the whole file each month?).
WHAT TO DO AFTER THIS
Now do this for each link. If you have a bazillion links, schedule time each day to get through a few. How many links to handle each day depends on how often you bookmark stuff. If you’re bookmarking everything in sight then you’ll want to schedule more sorting time. I used to be like that but I’ve calmed down a bit. So if I hammer through a couple of links a day I can usually stay on top of everything.
Once you’ve tackled your list of bookmarks with this system, you’ll find that future potential bookmarks can be handled almost instantaneously.
WHY THIS SYSTEM WORKS
This system works because you’re doing three things:
First, you’re considering the business application of the link. In other words, you’re deciding where in your business you’ll be able to apply the information.
Second, you’re being very specific about what you hope to get out of the link. You’re looking for something (one or more tasks) rather than just reading it, thinking “that’s nice, I should really do something about that” and then bookmarking for later.
Third, you’re making a decision about the future of the bookmark — whether or not to look at it again and when you should do so and what you should be looking for when you do look at it again.
It’s a good idea to have one location for all the bookmarks you want to handle. However, when it comes time to sort them so you can act on them later, you don’t always need to store them in the same place. I think the best example is YouTube videos. Once you’ve watched the YouTube videos and decided to act on them and keep them for later, do you really need to keep those links in our bookmarks? Why not set up a YouTube account and favorite the videos. Or, let’s say you have a whole bunch of inspiring quotes. Why not share them on Pinterest. Doing this puts you at risk of forgetting about them but it has a couple of advantages, too: If you thought they were valuable, maybe someone else will also so you can share them to help position you as someone who thinks about those things. And, by scheduling time to review the most timeless content, you can store it anywhere you want (in the place that makes the most sense) and access it again anyway.