How many words are you reading every day?
As a software developer, I read a lot. And I'm pretty sure that I should read even more. I need to stay up-to-date on my emails, a lot of Slack channels and, most importantly, on the things that other teams within the company are doing (i.e. read a lot of internal blog posts and other updates in our Confluence instance).
Your situation is probably similar. But how much of the information you read every day do you retain in memory?
If I was to guess the ratio of information I retain to all information that I read, I would say it's something around 5%. That means 95% of what I read every day is lost. And these 95% split up into two categories:
- information that I shouldn't have read in the first place because they bring no value to me, and
- information that I should have read more intently, to keep the knowledge in memory.
The first category I can avoid by being selective. Unsubscribe from newsletters I don't read, create email filters to highlight important emails, leave some Slack channels, and so on.
The second category I can avoid by reading intentionally. Some things that I do are:
- Maintaining a list of things I need to read on a Trello board with a comment on the card that answers the question of why I should read it. When I have reading time, I can check if the answer is still valid and then either read it or scrap it. Trello also provides the nice functionality that you can forward emails to it, which I use to re-read and answer emails at a later time.
- Priming my brain with questions before I read. I ask myself the question "What do I expect to get out of this text?". This helps me to filter out the important information.
- Actively scheduling some time for reading each day to stay on top of the deluge of information. If it ain't scheduled, it ain't happening. I'm reading 20 minutes in a nonfiction book in my lunch break every day. And I know I should schedule some reading time for work, as well.
- Taking notes to internalize the knowledge. I like to take notes the old-fashioned way on paper and then transfer them into a digital, searchable version. This act of transferring the notes greatly increases retention, at least for my sorry brain.
- Gamifying it. I "collect" book notes, for example. When I'm reading nonfiction books, I publish my book notes on the blog. They are the worst-performing pages on my blog (no one reads them). But the point is that the process of publishing the notes gives me a sense of accomplishment that motivates me to take notes and even re-visit them to get them published. I'm basically tricking my brain into having fun reading.
There are probably more things we can do to get the most of reading every day, but this is what's helping me.
What are your tricks to stay up-to-date with your reading?