Sunday, 28 October 2012

Active Reading

Active reading, as advocated by Scott Young, entails more than simply letting the words bounce off your eyeballs. Instead you apply a succession of filters to drill down into the chapter you are reading:
  1. First, scan through the chapter to get the gist of it. How long is it? Does it contain diagrams? Are there lots of information dense sections?
  2. Then, read the chapter and highlight the key points.
  3. Next, re-read the highlighted sections and summarize them in your notebook. Re-wording the information forces you to consider it in more depth, and begins the process of understanding it.
  4. Finally, read the summaries and do the extra holistic learning work e.g. make metaphors, 'visceralize', write a blog article etc :-)
Having watched Scott's video about the technique (part of the Learn More, Study Less course) I decided to apply it to the short chapter on active reading contained in the accompanying book. Having done so, I came up with the metaphor of an archaeologist at a dig:
  1. First she marks out with string the area of the ground that she is going to dig.
  2. Then she goes to work with a spade and, as she finds interesting artifacts, sets them to one side.
  3. Next she sorts through the artifacts and writes up the findings in her journal.
  4. Finally, back in the warmth of her office, she works through her journal and tries to marry up the findings with research or previous historical findings.
I have no idea if this is what an archaeologist does, but it does help me to internalize the active reading process by considering it from a different angle. Books contain ideas, you need to dig them out and then link them to your existing knowledge, so that you remember them.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Information Diet

I'm currently reading The Information Diet by Clay Johnson, an interesting book that argues that we should regulate our information intake in the same way that we regulate our diet. Your health suffers if you eat junk food. Johnson argues that your health also suffers if you read junk information sources.

Like I said, it's an interesting read, and has already inspired me to make some changes. I haven't opened Google Reader or Twitter for a couple of days now, and feel all the better for it. Most importantly, I have changed the configuration of my Galaxy Nexus so that I don't have instant access to information sources that can distract me.

Previously, my home screen looked like this:

I had everything organized into groups, so that all the common applications I used were at most two touches away.

My new home screen looks like this:

I have removed easy access to anything that I can use as an information source so that I don't habitually open a browser or Google Reader, or Twitter etc in an idle moment. When I consume information, I want to make a conscious effort to do so.

The Launcher replacement I used for this was Nova Launcher Prime. This has some nifty features, such as being able to create folders in the application drawer, and hide applications. My application drawer now looks like this:

Everything is nice and clean, I don't need to swipe through multiple drawers to find an application. So when I make the conscious decision to consume information, I can do so in 3 touches, rather than 2.

It may not seem like a big difference, but it has certainly made a difference to me. A few times now I have found myself mindlessly opening up my phone, and been halted by the new layout. That extra level of indirection is enough to help me to develop a new information consumption habit.

Let's see if it lasts!