Executive summary: How to remember and make use of the abundance of information available.
- Remind yourself of the purpose; why are you reading or listening to X
- Don’t speed read; use your inherent natural speed (you’ll get faster with time)
- Think about and write down your insights and conclusions (not too many; one is enough)
Length: 2 minutes
This post was originally a late night e-mail answer to how I remember and connect the dots between so much diverse information I digest every day.
I think you overestimate how well read I am.
I seem to stumble upon people everywhere that devour books at a much faster pace, and often with a focus on non fiction, whereas I “waste” 80% of my reading time on sci-fi.
What little non fiction books I do read these days I read slowly and thoughtfully, actively asking myself “How can I use this”, “Why am I reading this”.
Of course, I do read a lot of articles and blogs, and spend several hours every day on podcasts (100% useful, scientific, economic etc and 0% fiction). So, yes, I digest several hours of al dente scientific information every day.
However, I don’t have a system for it. Not like Ludvig at SGM with his book reading book with dozens of entries per book. Not like James Clear or Eric Barker who write long articles and reviews for every book, or combine several books into one single article.
What I do do is write down one single or half a single sentence of whatever I find intriguing in a podcast. I write it down in Evernote as inspiration for future tweets or blog posts and tag it with whatever I come to think of (cancer, immunotherapy, BDR4, glioblastoma polio treatment, or whatever comes to mind).
When I set out to write a new blog post, I check Evernote for inspiration, just reading through a few of the 200+ Blog Post notes I’ve got there. I pick one I feel for that specific day and just start writing.
While writing I often enter a state of flow and the associations spring up freely. It seems that the act of being very present when digesting the information, often walking and repeating the most important points silently to myself and then rehearsing it when writing down the single sentence, makes the information stick in my mind. Not unlike how taking longhand notes during a lecture works (the processing and condensing of the information make the essential parts stick).
In any case, I don’t have a fool proof system, just a highly functional association mechanism built in to my LAB (Light Asperger Brain).
Also, please note that I only started using Evernote less than two years ago…
Summary: 6 Sprezza steps to wisdom
If anything, my “system” can be summarized as follows:
- Read slowly and thoughtfully, think about what you are reading, what the practical lesson or possible use is. Reading should be done at your inherent natural speed – you’ll get faster with time, but don’t push it. When reading, ask yourself “Am I making progress now, toward which goals or intermediary goals? What does this give me? Am I learning?”
- Review the book (or podcast). Grade it. Ludvig likes to write down a lot of info, I only write down how good it was on a scale from 1-5. However, I probably should try to summarize my books with, e.g., one sentence after reading them. Actually, my review posts perform that function.
- Revisit again a few years later – if it’s really good; a 4+ or 5. A good book/podcast enjoyed twice is much better than two consumed half-heartedly. Then again, two good ones studied with intent and focus are much much better
- Keep a journal or notebook of ideas… a bit like I imagine Altucher does. You could associate the ideas to particular books, but I like free ideas better and don’t care that much about references. The ideas are more important than the authors
- Tag. Still, though, I have no system for maintaining a web of association between ideas (except Evernote tags). I’m just lucky they stay in my mind. I think it’s because I mull the same few ideas a lot. It’s like an alphabet of the same 26 ideas over and over again that I combine to words, sentences and paragraphs.
- Pattern recognition. By listening to a lot of diverse podcasts I get reminded again and again of what overarching main ideas there are and how they could be related to each other. Whenever I experience an Eureka moment, connecting the dots between two previously unrelated ideas, THAT connection is jotted down like an idea of its own. My approach saves energy and time (I don’t write down everything all the time) and is thus less stressful and encouraging.
Good night sir
P.S. My latest reads (October 2016):
All I want to know is where I’m going to die
Olja för blåbär (Swedish book about the importance of oil)
P.P.S. What you read is just as important as how you read it. Browse and speed read, check out the back and endorsements, as well as the chapter headings, to decide whether to read a book or not. Don’t try to read everything, be very selective.
P.P.P.S. A tip: gradually build a backlog of carefully selected interesting high-qualitative but timing-insensitive things to read and listen to whenever stuck or “idle”
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