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.

November 21, 2008 | Filed Under Workflow | 11 Comments 

Comments

  • B. D. Buie

    I’m curious to hear your take of what would be important to demonstrate in a call center type situation.

  • Matt

    Sure, I’d be glad to. Before I do, do you have any specific challenges in mind with a call center situation? Also, can you give me a few more details on what you have in mind by “demonstrate” here?

  • http://twentytwowords.com Abraham

    Josh Lewis tweeted this tool the other day:

    http://www.changedetection.com/

    A site that will inform you when any site with no feed is updated.

    Haven’t tried it to see if it’s lame or not.

  • Matt

    Abraham: Good to know about. Looks like it’s pretty simple.

  • http://fireandknowledge.org Josh S.

    I use 1Password for my account information and love it. I also use it to store other item information in my wallet, so if I lose something I have it handy. It also fills in forms online with that information. I’ve found it very helpful and time-saving.

  • Matt

    Josh,

    Good to hear it works so well — and does even more than I realized. This will make me give it a closer look sooner rather than later.

  • http://www.nerdlets.org Tommy

    You could always use Feedity: http://feedity.com/

    It monitors any website for changes and notifies you by RSS whenever there is an update. It essentially turns any website into an RSS feed.

  • http://www.nerdlets.org Tommy

    Sorry for the double post, but two other services that I have used in the past which do the same thing as Feedity (all free):

    Dapper: http://www.dapper.net/
    FeedYes: http://www.feedyes.com/

    Both are good. I have had the best luck with Dapper. Again, these simply monitor any website for changes and send those changes via RSS to your feed reader of choice (Google Reader for me)

  • http://ryanwentzelphotography.com/ Ryan

    I’ve used KeePass (http://keepass.info/) for awhile now to store my passwords. It’s a great little piece of software. The passwords are stored in an encrypted “database” and KeePass will even generate strong passwords for you if you like.

  • http://www.heartandvoice.com Ken

    Another option for keeping passwords is the keychain in OS X. It allows you to create secure notes which are only accessible with the system password. It’s under applications -> utilities and you can add it to your dock. It’s also free!

  • Martin

    The keychain in OS X also has a menu item that you can enable, it will live in the right-hand part of the menu bar. Very handy. Also, the auto-fill passwords from Safari are stored there automatically. I use the keychain to store secure notes as well, such as TAN lists for electronic banking and software serial numbers.