English: A pile of potato chips. These are Utz...

English: A pile of potato chips. These are Utz-brand, grandma’s kettle-cooked style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many times has this happened to you? You sit down to really get some work done and an article catches your eye. Maybe it’s an interview with Your Favorite Actor Ever and he’s going to finally reveal something you’ve been dying to know. Or maybe it’s a blog post about the very issue you’ve been struggling with. Or maybe a service you use all the time just changed their terms and you need to know how it will effect your business. Or maybe it’s something political and you just feel like getting enraged.

You’ll just read that real quick and then get down to work.

So you click on the article, read it, and emerge blinking sometimes hours later without having gotten anything done. Because articles on the internet are like potato chips and you really can’t read just one. Something on the sidebar catches your eye and you decide to read that too. Or that initial article reminds you of that other thing that you have to go research while you’re thinking of it. Or whatever you read about raises so many questions that you have to consult secondary sources. Or you get so enraged you need to go write a rant on Facebook.

Even the simple act of reading the headlines in the morning can lead into this cycle. When I started auditing my day, I discovered that I was losing way too much time to reading random things on the internet, especially news. What I came to realize is that I didn’t need to stop reading things online entirely, there’s too much useful information out there and it’s never a good idea to ignore current events, but I needed to stop reading when I needed to be working and I needed to stop impulse reading.

My solution to this was simple. Now, whenever I see something that I want to read, be it for business or pleasure, rather than dropping everything and reading it right then and there, I save it for later. You can just copy and paste the link into your Tasks list if you want but I like the free app Pocket (which used to be called the infinitely more transparent Read It Later and it was just plain idiotic that they changed it). You can install it on your browser and/or the mobile device of your choice.

Throughout the day, when I see something of interest, I simply add it to my Read It Later excuse me my POCKET (So. Dumb). Then later, when I’m doing something away from the computer or I have a few minutes of free time, I can take the time and actually read them even if I’m offline or without WiFi. This way I’m not wasting my valuable work-time reading things but I still keep track of them so they aren’t overlooked. As an added bonus, Pocket has an option where you can read the article in a text only format so there’s no chance you’ll be distracted by something else on the page.

How does this save time, you wonder? Because, like potato chips, when you’re vulnerable and hungry as you first sit down at your computer, you’re going to eat, or in this case read, all sorts of things that are bad for you. And you’re going to go overboard and have way too much and spoil your dinner (which, in this case, is the real work you’re supposed to be doing). But if you save those articles for later in the day when you’ve already put in some work and are feeling mentally full, if you will, you’ll find that you can go through them much faster. An impulse read you may have wasted an hour on before you discover you suddenly don’t even care enough about to finish. An article you would have breezed over earlier, you can read more in depth and get more out of it. Instead of bopping around CNN for hours, you’re going to read just that one article you came there to read.

And, most importantly, you’re giving reading it’s own time and place so it can’t steal time away from real work.

What solutions have you found for making your daily reads less of a time suck?