Sometimes, the Work Is Easier Than the Workaround
If you spend hours looking for tricks, gimmicks, and automations, you might as well do the actual thing
When my favorite writer stopped writing, I decided to save all his articles, lest he delete them. I knew I could save them one by one in Evernote, but since he had published over 100 pieces, I thought there might be a way to avoid this tedium.
I asked a developer friend for help, and he referred me to another mutual friend of ours. I messaged that friend on Slack but didn’t get a response. A week later, I emailed him. A few more days went by, but then, he responded.
My friend suggested two scraping tools for the job. I started comparing their features and pricing. As it turned out, one tool would limit exports on a free trial, so I went with the other one. I downloaded it, installed it, and made an account.
The tool was pretty technical, so it took a while to grasp the basics. Eventually, I got it to load my favorite author’s index page, where all his stories were linked. Then, however, the tool required making complex workflows, and to top it all off, it only seemed to export to CSV, not PDF.
At this point, I finally decided the juice was no longer worth the squeeze. I sat down after lunch, sipped some coffee, cranked up the music, and went to work. One by one, I opened each article in a new tab, clicked the Evernote Web Clipper, chose the right output settings, and saved it.
Some pages took forever to load. Chrome groaned under the pressure. Evernote kept changing its settings, so I had to fiddle with them each time. After about an hour, however, I made it. There it was: My favorite author’s entire essay collection, preserved for future readings.
All in all, saving 100+ articles by hand was boring, tedious, and eye-roll inducing. I felt grumpy, annoyed, and frustrated at times. In short, it was exactly what you’d expect it to be. It was also, however, the 100% right thing to do — the shortest path to results, and thus the quickest way to satisfaction.
“Work smarter, not harder!” It’s a piece of advice cited like gospel in meetings, speeches, and job interviews. But how much time do you spend…