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Some practical advice today. I read a shit-ton. And I occasionally get asked about it, particularly from college students. “How can I read more? How can I read faster? How can I remember and use more?” Although I’m technically a blogger, writer and internet marketer, I actually see my occupation as synthesizing and sharing information in unique and efficient ways. A big part of that is therefore reading a lot of cool stuff and then being able to share that cool stuff easily. Most people don’t realize that the way we’re taught to read when we’re young makes us poor readers when we’re adults. There are practical and logical tactics one can utilize to read non-fiction material more efficiently. In my book Models, a passage that surprisingly drew a lot of attention from readers was the section where I described how I challenged myself to read 50 non-fiction books in 50 days when I was 19-years-old. In the book, I described this experience as one of the most useful of my life. University courses became a breeze. My writing got better. My ability to consume information increased drastically. And I gained tons of new insights and perspectives on my life and the world around me. What seems to catch people’s attention is that they assume it was some massive feat of will power. It was at first, but within a
week or so. Therefore the way we’re taught to read when we’re young is designed to do that efficiently. not necessarily transmit information efficiently. regardless of space or time or whether we like each other or not. . But before we get into it. is re-orient the way we read to consume information and ideas efficiently. not some uber-speed-reading techniques. Once you get the hang of it. as educated adults. but not the ultimate purpose. let’s start with a question: “What is the purpose of reading?” That sounds like a pretty stupid question. Grammar and vocabulary are pre-requisites for this. the purpose of reading is to learn vocabulary and proper grammar. It will just take some conscious effort at first and a little bit of practice. I adopted a few strategies to make the whole process more efficient and more enjoyable. these tips are practical and logical. Written language has the magical power of taking an idea from my brain and inserting it into yours. These are strategies anyone can use and require little practice. It’s so obvious that few people bother to think about it. But why do we even read in the first place? The answer is the transmission of information. consuming a typical popular science book should take no more than a few hours (exceptions if the book is either really good or really bad). What we have to do. For the most part. But when we’re young. You can be up to speed and doing this stuff within a week or two.
by itself. since the purpose of reading it is the artistic merit of the writing itself. For this reason. can double or triple your reading speed within a few days. we’re taught to read by sounding out every letter and then every word.) Step 1: Shut Off Your Inner Monologue When we’re kids. And when you do encounter a piece of great writing (*cough* like mine *cough*) you can always turn the monologue back on to really enjoy it. I have a handful of favorite writers and bloggers that I always keep the monologue on for. or when reading fiction or poetry for pleasure. But most of the time the monologue goes off. because beyond the information I simply enjoy their style of writing. This requires some degree of mindfulness and I actually think meditation can help with this.(Note: In the cases of good fiction or poetry. I forgo most of these strategies. we continue to read through an internal monologue in our head. it’s often not desirable to read the book as quickly as possible. As we grow older. Mastering this. Step 2: Scan for Important words only . The problem is our eyes are capable of identifying words and sentences much faster than our inner monologue can make sounds. in the case of extremely well-written non-fiction. The first step to reading faster and more efficiently is to stop sounding out the words in your head.
Once that happens. but rather the demonstrated lack of care by his owners. The other habit that is taught in grade school that slows you down later is to pay attention to every word in a sentence in order.” You get 90% of the meaning with about 50% of the words. “Cat’s biggest concern — not lack of food — but — lack of care — owners. certain chunks of words will stand out in paragraphs and your eyes will just glide over the filler words without wasting time or energy on their content. you’ll find yourself beginning to chunk groups of words together into larger chunks of meaning. your mind will register “the cat was mad” as one single piece of information. . “In effect. For example. Instead of seeing “the” “cat” “was” “mad” separately.FYI: Kids suck at reading. the cat’s biggest concern had not been the lack of food. Once you get the hang of reading without sounding out every word in your head. So we may as well take advantage of it.” Will soon register as this. this sentence. But the mind has an amazing ability to fill gaps with appropriate information.
California. where I sat on a rock and watched surfers. In many cases the adjectives hint at the action taking place and so reading the verbs is unnecessary as well. all for the sake of. and even risked shark attacks. this is what stands out as my eyes scan it: “A recent early morning hike in Malibu. This is the first paragraph: “A recent early morning hike in Malibu. I marveled at these courageous men and women who woke before dawn. endured freezing water. maybe. catching an epic ride. endured freezing water. I marveled at these courageous men and women who wokebefore dawn. paddled throughbarreling waves.” That’s 50% of what’s actually written. and even risked shark attacks.” But as I read that paragraph. . But this can double your reading speed yet again. where I sat on a rock and watched surfers. But you’ll notice that the relationships between those chunks are all already implied. catching an epic ride. led me to a beach. led me to a beach. Scanning paragraphs like this takes practice.I’ll use another example from an article I read last night. paddled through barreling waves. California. And the beauty is that if you scan through a paragraph and don’t completely grasp the meaning. maybe. It’s from the Harvard Business Review and is about defeating procrastination. all for the sake of.
There’s no reason for you to suffer through this. and if we’re not reading something for the pleasure of the writing itself. Whenever I read an article.you just go back. a section of a book. If I come across a sentence that piques my interest. and add the words back in until makes sense. slow down. paragraphs introduce new ideas and new topics. Especially if you’re a smart and selective reader. Then take off again. The fact of the matter is that most non-fiction is not written well. That means that there’s no reason to continue reading sentences that describe a concept you already understand. THEN I will go back and read the entire paragraph or section. By design. It’s usually repetitive and long-winded. then. you’re limiting yourself to sentences that introduce each idea in the piece of work. I will read only the first sentence of each paragraph. then it makes no sense to read any more words or sentences than are necessary to convey the information. And when you limit yourself to the first sentence of each one. Step 3: Read only first and last sentences of paragraphs If we accept that the purpose of writing is to convey information. They’ll give example after example of a simple concept you already understood. If I reach a point where I’ve lost track of what the author is talking about. and only then. I will go . or a chapter where I feel like I already have a decent understanding of the subject matter and am merely looking for something new or something that stands out.
It’s likely not that much. Only read entire paragraphs if the you don’t understand the first and last sentences.back and read the last few paragraphs until I’m caught up to speed. It’s actually startling how much information you can pick up just by doing this. Compare how much information you gained by doing the latter. Dig up a magazine article you’ve never read and go through it reading only the first and last sentences of each paragraph. He had an entire section of the book about his interest in Native American rituals. Right now I’m reading Phil Jackson’s new autobiography about being an NBA coach. I’m interested in Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Another option is to read only the first and last sentences of each paragraph. chapters or Even the book itself I’m amazed by how many people persist in reading crappy books that they’re not learning anything from. Try it. As for ditching a book entirely. I usually give any book 10% before I decide whether to finish it or not. then I’ll move on. Then go back and read the whole thing beginning to end. I’m not interested in Native American rituals. So I skipped about four pages. then just skip entire sections. If it’s a 500 page . things you already know. Step 4: Skip entire sections. I’m now halfway through the book and feel like I missed out on absolutely nothing. or the book is just extremely repetitive (like most self help books). If you are consistently running into shitty ideas.
If it doesn’t grab me or I find I don’t respect the author. That may surprise some people. I’d estimate that I end up putting down anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the books that I start and never read any more than 10-20% of them. If it’s 100 pages. If that chapter still doesn’t do it for me. it needs to grab me within 10 or so. I’ll give it until 50 pages. then I put the book down and don’t look back. So there’s no sense on wasting my time on books that are not transmitting the information I’m interested in. then before giving up on it I’ll check the table of contents and skip to the chapter that appeals to me the most. Step 5: Relate any Important information to things you already know How are you going to remember all of this stuff? .book. But I’ve found that one really good book gives me the value and information of 3-4 crappy books.
. Instead of trying to recall the theoretical specifics of Positive Disintegration cold. Ever been in a conversation with somebody and something they say suddenly sparks a memory you hadn’t thought about in years? Yep. his ideas are far easier to recall. understand or use. Positive Disintegration is a theoretical psychological framework and reading about it was quite dense. Sometimes you may feel the urge to quiz yourself on what you just read.When you start to go through a lot of books. the majority of our memories will exist in our sub-conscious and only become accessible in relevant contexts. It feels weird because you can’t consciously recall everything immediately. They just need to be associated with something useful for them to come up. So sometimes it feels like you read hundreds of pages for nothing. This is why whenever you come across a new or useful idea. That then allows my brain to access the information from the book quickly. take a moment to relate it to something you already know. It was fascinating. But then you’re basically just replicating school all over again. As a result. For instance. who remembers anything they learned in school? The way the brain is set up. you become concerned that you’re not retaining all of the information that you’re coming across. They’re down there. but I ended up having to take some time to relate each of his ideas to personal experiences or other psychological frameworks that I’ve studied in the past. And honestly. I can remember the social anxieties I struggled with for years and how that represents one of the processes in his framework. I recently read a book on Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration.
highlighting or underlining is overrated if not useless. The retention and usefulness comes from building a reference database of references. The frameworks are similar. keep a database But even then you won’t be able to remember everything. I go back and make notes on the parts I highlighted and bookmarked. If there’s a whole section that is important. Step 6: Highlight. I don’t have to recall both in a vacuum. This takes . My memory of each reinforces the other now because I see how they interrelate. What it’s useful for is reference. (Note: This is where it gets nerdy.) I believe as a study tool itself.Later when I studied Robert Kegan’s work — another developmental psychological framework that was dense — I then related it to Positive Disintegration. When I finish a book. and have basically the same endpoint. involve five stages. I’ll dog-ear the page down (with Kindle. So it’s important to be able to reference your knowledge. I then write a short 100-200 word summary of the book and the points I took from it. This won’t actually help you retain anything by itself. but I can recall parts of either and soon have the whole of both. or at least not accurately. you can just add a bookmark). bookmark. I highlight/underline all important facts or ideas that I want to be able to reference in the future.
it’s there forever. In 10 years. Some people are really into mind mapping. But it’s been incredibly useful for me. waiting in line at the airport. I only do this with the best books that have important information.anywhere from five to 30 minutes. if I ever get foggy on Dabrowski’s theories. so it’s accessible anywhere (even on my phone). . not everything I read. and refresh myself. at home. especially in regards to my business. but it’s the same concept. But it’s worth it. There are books I read 10 years ago that I’m foggy now on a lot of the specifics. I’d say only 1/3 of the books I read make it into the database. I also keep my database on Google Drive. And the best part is. I can pull them up at any time. I never really got into them. on a bus or train.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?