Look back on the last 3 pieces of online writing you've read.
How much do you remember?
0%? 1%? 2%?
Do those percentages sound correct? For most people, they do.
We're spending more time CONSUMING information as opposed to LEARNING information that we read.
There is a technique for reading online
Like how there is a technique to playing tennis.
or having effective conversations. Anything has a technique.
What is your technique?
Take 2 seconds.
Reflect on this question.
What is your strategy when you read things? This isn't limited to reading, this goes for everything you do in your life.
One step deeper:
You have a technique for everything that you do. Everything.
Relationships, diet, sleep, work, and play. Techniques power all.
- Is my technique effective?
- Is my technique serving me?
If any of the above is NO – maybe it's time to change techniques.
Most People Have Terrible Technique
What I often observe are people (including myself) acting instinctually.
With no real intentionality.
Which leads to "good enough" outcomes. But nothing great.
More so, it's often the case that people aren't AWARE of their techniques. And so, when they think about why they are not getting the desired results, they overlook their methods and never actually improve.
It's this idea of solving the symptoms, not the root cause – all because the root cause is hard to see. (Not being aware)
The analogy we'll use to further explore this idea is OVEREATING.
People CONSUME way too much food -> then hope their bodies can process it.
This is a terrible idea.
And you know this instinctually.
When you overeat. You feel tired. Sick. And even depressed.
You miss out on crucial nutrients. Your body shuts down.
It's a bad deal for everyone involved.
We're Overeating Information
Most people will read things. Then hope their brain processes it. Maybe pat themselves on the back for reading. And then move on to the next thing.
This is PASSIVE. It is an approach that you'll see most farm animals take. It's called grazing.
We're taking things in -> not doing anything with that information -> and then eating some more.
Some might say this is just another expression of consumerism. It's much easier to sell grass to a cow than to a wolf. Without any intentionality backing your technique – that is what you end up with.
If you've read thus far. CHECK YOURSELF. Are you grazing?
There is a better way.
Introducing: TLS (Traffic Light System)
Benefits of this technique:
- No more overeating of information
- Higher retention of information (you'll remember what you read)
- Less overwhelm
- Increased focus
- Increased feelings of wellbeing
- Not being a cow?
Breakdown of technique
There are 2 essential steps:
Redlight – Question Period
Before reading anything. The light will be red. It's red because you want to stop and think about what you're about to read.
All you have to do here is ask yourself a question about what you're about to read. Spark your curiosity.
Imagine you were going to read an article about decentralization.
You may ask yourself a question to start. Maybe, "What does Vitalik mean when he says Decentralization? Is there a definition he provides?"
Why should we do this?
Because our brains are PROBLEM-SOLVING machines. And what we're doing is posing a problem for our brain to solve in the form of this question.
After formulating an initial question. The red light step is complete.
Greenlight – Answering period.
The light has now turned GREEN! You've posed a question, so now you can look for an answer.
But? Do I have to read everything from the beginning?
Feel completely free to TEAR through the article. Skim, and find the relevant headings.
Go FIND the answer to your question.
Continuing our example...
Get an answer:
After finding a potential answer. Ask yourself a few questions. Reflect.
- Why is this important?
- How can I apply this in the real world?
- How does this relate to what I read earlier?
- How does this relate to what I already know?
This forces you to process deeply. And start making relationships in your mind – which will help you retain the information more easily.
Write down what you learn:
Then write down what you understand on a piece of paper or document.
Don't just highlight or rewrite what was said.
Write down what your mind understands. Parahphrase in your own words.
That way, you can keep track of the insights you've gained at a later date if needed.
So basically... Ask a question and go FETCH!
Back to red light.
Are you slowly understanding this?
Essentially, you're posing yourself a question, a problem to solve.
Then telling your brain to go find the answer.
Once you find the answer. What else are you curious about? What new avenues do you want to explore? Ask yourself. And then go find that answer.
Rinse and repeat.
Why is this better than before?
Because you're making use of "Order Control." (as taught by Dr. Justin Sung from ICS)
The author of the post doesn't know what you know.
They won't be able to present information to you in a way you would immediately understand.
So you must CONTROL the order of the information you consume.
Go from: just consuming information from Left to Right.
To: finding answers to your questions and satiating your curiosity
When you define the order in which you consume information – you are better able to REMEMBER it because it MATTERS more. It makes more sense.
It's the answer to the problem you've asked your brain to find. Which tends to stick around more often than not.
When you use this technique. It's like eating the right portion of food. You eat just enough. Your body has an easy time processing it.
Think of this technique as "information portion control."
When you eat smaller pieces, it becomes easier to digest.
The added benefit is that your brain can better retain what you read and relate it to other things you know. The information becomes meaningful.
This just snowballs... Eventually, you'll find reading SO easy that it seems almost unfair.
Congrats, you're a WOLF!
From passively grazing information.
You are now actively HUNTING information.
For the next thing you read, try using the TLS system.
Ask yourself questions.
Find the answers.
Write them down.
BONUS - MEME OF THE DAY
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