How to Keep Track Of Websites You Need to Use a Lot, But Which Don't Have RSS
I just got an email notifying me that a new account has been set up for me at a new Basecamp site we’re using to manage some projects.
Basecamp actually has an RSS feed you can subscribe to in order to stay up to date on your projects. Nice.
But a lot of sites that we need to use frequently in our work or regular life don’t have this. For example, to review and analyze our Google Analytics reports, I go to the actual site. Likewise with any agenda lists we keep online, financial sites, and other such stuff. Everybody has a bunch of stuff like this.
Here’s what I do when there is a site that I need to use frequently like this.
First, after I’ve created my account, I put the username and password in my passwords document. Even though Firefox (or IE if you use that) stores the passwords, sometimes the browser just won’t fill them in for me (this mostly happens with financial sites). This is also important for when the time comes that you switch computers, or browsers, and all that data doesn’t transfer in your browser.
My passwords document is a bit of a frustration because it is 16 pages, but it is simple. Each site is given a bold heading, then the username and password are underneath. There are some applications that seem to manage passwords well (like 1Password), but I haven’t taken the time yet to seriously compare how much time that would actually save me versus this document. (Also, don’t forget to password protect your password document!)
Second, I add the site to my bookmarks. The important thing here is to have your bookmarks organized well so that they are actually useful. If they aren’t organized well, they aren’t useful and you probably ignore them. See my previous post on how to organize your bookmarks for immediate access.
Third, this usually isn’t enough to remember to actually use the site. Often times the work itself contains natural reminders that will drive me to the site (as it is with Basecamp), and in those cases no further action is needed. But often times there needs to be some trigger reminding me to go check it.
For example, there is no natural trigger that sparks me to check our web stats every day. Some people are really good at just remembering the things they need (or want) to do every day. I’m not like that. When there are more than about 3 things I need to make sure and do every day or semi-frequently, I’m not going to remember to do them spontaneously. So I build them into my routine.
I have a daily routine that I go through every morning (with some exceptions) that contains the most basic things I want to make sure and do every day. One item in my routine is to process my email to zero. Another is to check our website reports (or, it used to be, until my role changed, although I should get back to doing that daily).
So if I’m going to need to review the site daily, I’ll put it in my daily routine. If less frequently, then I put it into my schedule for whatever frequency seems best (weekly, or whatever). And again, if other actions I take will naturally lead me to use the site (for example, paying bills each month naturally leads me to go to my credit card site), then it doesn’t need to go in the schedule, but having the site in your well-organized bookmarks is crucial.
The key principle here is: Don’t rely on your mind to remember to remember something, even your routines. Create a trigger. Sometimes the nature of your work will serve as the trigger, but when it doesn’t, put it in your schedule. Then use your mind for more important things than “remembering to remember,” like creativity and high-level planning and actual implementation.