Do you love to read? Do you devour new articles that your social media peers recommend? If so, you might fall in the same trap I did.
How much of what I read actually stays in my head? Which of the ideas, and tips, and good advices that (I thought) I learned created a long-lasting imprint on my brain? How often my behaviour changes because I read this or that?
At some point I realised that only a tiny percent of what I read makes it into my head. The rest — no matter how interesting and even significant it feels when I read it — somehow doesn’t stay with me for a longer time. It is like a stream of water that flows and I put my hand in it for a short while. When I pull my hand back it dries quickly and soon there is no evidence that anything happened.
“No one reads; if someone does read, he doesn’t understand; if he understands, he immediately forgets.” Stanislaw Lem
Hm… am I wasting my time reading then? If so, then how to change it?
By putting more thought and effort into reading I will improve the ROI of reading. I will remember much better what I learned. I will also introduce some changes to my behaviour.
I came up with the following experiment. I decided, that for the next 7 days I will change the way I read. (Why 7 days and not 3 or 10? The number 7 was computed by a team of blockchain-powered AI Fintech nano-drones) These are the 3 simple rules that I decided to follow:
- If article is good, add a comment.
To write a valuable comment, I need to think over the content. Then, I need to combine it with my previous knowledge & experience, and formulate my own thoughts about the topic. This should make me remember much better what I’ve just read.
2. Timebox the reading activity.
The reading should not distract me from other activities. I use getpocket to store articles to read in the future, and then I select 2 or 3 to read in one go.
3. Take some action.
You haven’t really learned anything until you’ve changed your behaviour.
If so, then most of my reading is a waste of time, as it doesn’t cause any behaviour change. Obviously, not everything is applicable on the spot, so I am not sure how I’m gonna go about this one.
After this week of deliberate reading I feel good. I would call my experiment a success and I will continue it. These are my — subjective — findings after 7 days:
- Quantity. The number of articles I read daily dropped significantly. I was consistently saying “no” to the idea of reading the article right away (as I was usually doing previously). Sometimes I read only 1–2 articles per day.
- Quality. I almost haven’t taken any notes while reading, but now when I scan the titles of articles I read recently, I can pretty well remember what they were about. I can’t really compare it to my previous experience, but my subjective feeling is that now I remember much more (and I attribute this to writing comments).
- Changes. As expected, not everything I read resulted in some behaviour change. However, at least I thought about whether there is something I could change, and in some areas I was able to improve my behaviour .
- Dopamine. During these 7 days I definitely missed the rush of fast reading / scanning. It seems like fast, unhampered reading gives me kind of a dopamine shot. I miss it.
- Good karma. I know (from the first-hand experience) that articles’ authors cherish every comment and feel good when they receive one. Thanks to comments, they know their work was appreciated. It feels good to leave a comment knowing I just added +10 to somebody’s mood. …yeah! Go on, try it now! 🙂
- Popularity. Commenting articles on Medium made the reading statistics of my own posts grew up a little bit. Apparently others were curious to check my stories. An unintended, but definitely nice, side-effect of my new reading approach. 🙂
- Additional effort. Sometimes writing of a comment takes few minute. I guess this is inevitable if you aim for more than “thanks, that was interesting” kind of comments.
I also see some improvement possibilities:
- Timeboxing. I wasn’t consistent here, and sometimes I read things spontaneously disturbing my other (more important) activities.
- Selection. I can improve how I select the articles to read so I don’t waste my time on reading nonsense. However, I don’t won’t to concentrate on few selected sources because: 1) I don’t want to read the same most popular sources like everyone else 2) There is a value in everything you read, and sometimes you might be pretty surprised by some totaly unknown author.
I’m pretty curious what are your techniques for improving the ROI of the reading?. Add a comment, please!