instapaper zero & the holy grail

I’m a diligent subscriber to the Inbox Zero philosophy. This was first introduced in 2006 by Merlin Mann, a pioneer in the productivity blogging space. I probably reached it in 2006, right around when I had to delete my primary email address, due to spam overload.

I currently have 6 emails in my inbox. They’re mostly todos or reminders that I need to keep for longer. I don’t really use archives that extensively (usually just for license keys and account backups), so if I get a flight confirmation, it stays in my primary inbox until after it’s done. That’s just my style.

I also clear up my archives a lot.

So, I have my inbox under control… What about other mediums of information intake?


My Bookmarks tend to be mandolin-related (let’s be honest, I’ll never get to most of these, but it’s nice to know another version of me already did the research on where to find chord charts and advanced video lessons) or links to ebooks I’ve bought. I’m okay with that.

We’re not at Bookmarks Zero but we’re close enough that it doesn’t haunt me.


Podcasts can ebb and flow in how much they overwhelm me. I always seem to find a new podcast that I want to love and then I’ll hate it.

Currently, I am subscribed to 1 daily news podcast, 1 weekly show, and then ~3 shows that I’d say come out monthly. I’m normally okay with this, just listening when I wake up or when I’m doing the dishes, but finding new shows with 100+ archives is a hell like no other. It’s never worth it.

I used to listen to around 10 podcast episodes a day. I remember so little of it. The podcasts I do remember tend to be fictional and extremely well-produced. Another interesting twist on a talk show format is pointless to me.


YouTube is a toughie. I definitely have a Watch Later list. Every time I find a new creator, I MUST catch up on videos I am interested in. I slowly go through it. I’m nearly done with my latest one, and I doubt I’ll have a new creator I get obsessed with for a while.

So, YouTube tends to take 30-60 minutes a day. It’s a nice break during meals. The video nature of it makes having a long Watch Later list pretty relaxing catch up. If I miss YouTube for a week though… it’s a lot to catch up on.

tv shows & movies

I use an app called TV Time to keep track of new episodes of shows I keep up with. This is mostly just useful because I have no idea when shows that aren’t on streaming services come out onto the TV.

For movies, I don’t keep a to-watch list, but I keep track of everything I’ve ever watched on Letterboxd.

This is pretty free-flowing and I used to have a huge archive of TV shows to watch from 3 years where I couldn’t watch TV, but now I just kind of watch whatever I want, whenever I want.

journalism & articles

We have reached my true vice. Longform journalism, self-help blogs, and programming articles. I was obsessed with for at least half a decade. It’s like an addiction I keep going back to. 1% of articles sticks in your brain forever. Is that worth 20 hours a week of reading? I don’t think so.

Self-help and programming articles (which feel similar to me now that I’m a programmer) are about the same rate as well, but luckily, tend to take less than 30 minutes to read.

I had an archive of about 2000 articles in December of 2019. I split the programming-related ones into Pocket, and kept the more personal ones in Instapaper. That diluted the overwhelm a little bit, and I kept just digging through these as separate tasks.

As of today, I have under 500 — back to all being in Instapaper. I want to get to zero.

There’s an option in Instapaper — send my 10 newest articles to my Kindle every week. I have it set to Friday.

I can’t wait for the day where the only articles that are in there are from the past week. Most weeks it will be under 10, and I can slowly get through it one article at a time. Some weeks it’ll be over 10, but never 500.

I spent 3-4 hours catching up on my archive of Instapaper articles. I don’t think I even came close to making a dent.

I want to read 10 articles a day. In 50 days, I will be free.

I miss comic books! I miss real books! I miss using one of my 4 streaming services!

Inbox Zero, Podcast Zero, Bookmarks Zero, YouTube Zero, TV/Movies Zero, it’s all good.

But Instapaper Zero is holding me back from the spontaneity of having a selection of media that a version of me from a year ago didn’t push on me.

“Why not just delete them all?” It’s not that simple. Let’s not discuss that here.

I have a 5 day weekend coming up. I can finally read a bunch of articles and dig into Disney+ at the same time. I can’t wait to be Media Zero.