The Art of Reading, Remembering, and Retaining More Books

 

Read fully at http://open.bufferapp.com/how-to-read-more-and-remember-it-all/?utm_content=buffer4bb2d&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

“I just sit in my office and read all day.”

This is how Warren Buffett, one of the most successful people in the business world, describes his day. Sitting. Reading.

He advises everyone to read more, and that’s certainly a goal we can all get behind. Our personal improvements at Buffer regularly come back to the books we read—how we aim to read more and make reading a habit. I imagine you’re in the same boat as well. Reading more is one of our most common ambitions.

So how do we do it? And what are we to do with all that information once we have it?

Reading more and remembering it all is a discussion with a lot of different layers and a lot of interesting possibilities. I’m happy to lay out a few possibilities here on how to read more and remember it all, and I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

But first, let’s set some baselines …

How fast do you read?

One of the obvious shortcuts to reading more is to read faster. That’s likely the first place a lot of us would look for a quick win in our reading routine.

So how fast do you read?

Staples (yes, the office supply chain) collected speed reading data as part of an advertising campaign for selling e-readers. The campaign also included a speed reading tool that is still available to try. Go ahead and take the test to see how fast you read.

(My score was 337 words per minute. Yours?)

The Staples speed reading test includes data on how other demographics stack up in words per minute. According to Staples, the average adult reads 300 words per minute.

  • Third-grade students = 150 words per minute
  • Eight grade students = 250
  • Average college student = 450
  • Average “high level exec” = 575
  • Average college professor = 675
  • Speed readers = 1,500
  • World speed reading champion = 4,700

Average Reading Speed

Is reading faster always the right solution to the goal of reading more? Not always. Comprehension still matters, and some reports say that speed reading or skimming leads to forgotten details and poor retention. Still, if you can bump up your words per minute marginally while still maintaining your reading comprehension, it can certainly pay dividends in your quest to read more.

There’s another way to look at the question of “reading more,” too.

How much do you read?

There’s reading fast, and then there’s reading lots. A combination of the two is going to be the best way to supercharge your reading routine, but each is valuable on its own. In fact, for many people, it’s not about the time trial of going beginning-to-end with a book or a story but rather more about the story itself. Speed reading doesn’t really help when you’re reading for pleasure.

In this sense, a desire to read more might simply mean having more time to read, and reading more content—books, magazines, articles, blog posts—in whole.

Let’s start off with a reading baseline. How many books do you read a year?

A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center found that adults read an average of 17 books each year.

The key word here is “average.” There are huge extremes at either end, both those who read way more than 17 books per year and those who read way less—like zero. The same Pew Research study found 19 percent of Americans don’t read any books. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll from 2013 showed that number might be even higher: 28 percent of Americans haven’t read a book in the past year.

Wanting to read more puts you in pretty elite company.

5 ways to read more books, blogs, and articles

1. Read for speed: Tim Ferriss’ guide to reading 300% faster

Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek and a handful of other bestsellers, is one of the leading voices in lifehacks, experiments, and getting things done. So it’s no wonder that he has a speed-reading method to boost your reading speed threefold.

His plan contains two techniques:

  1. Using a pen as a tracker and pacer, like how some people move their finger back and forth across a line as they read
  2. Begin reading each new line at least three words in from the first word of the line and end at least three words in from the last word

The first technique, the tracker/pacer, is mostly a tool to use for mastering the second technique. Ferriss calls this second technique Perceptual Expansion. With practice, you train your peripheral vision to be more effective by picking up the words that you don’t track directly with your eye. According to Ferriss:

Untrained readers use up to ½ of their peripheral field on margins by moving from 1st word to last, spending 25-50% of their time “reading” margins with no content.

The below image from eyetracking.me shows how this concept of perceptual expansion might look in terms of reading:

Perceptual Expansion

You’ll find similar ideas in a lot of speed reading tips and classes (some going so far as to suggest you read line by line in a snake fashion). Rapid eye movements called saccades occur constantly as we read and as our eyes jump from margins to words. Minimizing these is a key way to boost your reading times.

The takeaway here: If you can advance your peripheral vision, you may be able to read faster—maybe not 300 percent faster, but every little bit counts.

2. Try a brand new way of reading

Is there still room for innovation in reading? A couple of new reading tools say yes.

Spritz and Blinkist take unique approaches to helping you read more—one helps you read faster and the other helps you digest books quicker.

First, Spritz. As mentioned above in the speed reading section, there is a lot of wasted movement when reading side-to-side and top-to-bottom.

Spritz cuts all the movement out entirely.

Spritz shows one word of an article or book at a time inside a box. Each word is centered in the box according to the Optimal Recognition Point—Spritz’s term for the place in a word that the eye naturally seeks—and this center letter is colored red.

Spritz has yet to launch anything related to its technology, but there is a bookmarklet called OpenSpritz, created by gun.io, that lets you use the Spritz reading method on any text you find online.

Here is what OpenSpritz looks like at 600 words per minute:

OpenSpritz test

The Spritz website has a demo on the homepage that you can try for yourself and speed up or slow down the speeds as you need.

Along with Spritz is the new app Blinkist. Rather than a reimagining of the way we read, Blinkist is a reimagining of the way we consume books. Based on the belief that the wisdom of books should be more accessible to us all, Blinkist takes popular works of non-fiction and breaks the chapters down into bite-sized parts.

These so-called “blinks” contain key insights from the books, and they are meant to be read in two minutes or less. Yes, it’s a lot like Cliff Notes. Though the way the information is delivered—designed to look great and be eminently usable on mobile devices so you can learn wherever you are—makes it one-of-a-kind.

Here is an example of the Blinkist table of contents from Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things:

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

I’m sure we can agree that it’s a lot easier to read more when a book is distlled into 10 chapters, two minutes each.

3. Read more by making the time

Shane Parrish of the Farnam Street blog read 14 books in March, and he tackles huge totals like this month-in and month-out. How does he do it?

He makes it a priority, and he cuts out time from other activities.

What gets in the way of reading?

I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV. (The lone exception to this is during football season where I watch one game a week.)

I watch very few movies.

I don’t spend a lot of time commuting.

I don’t spend a lot of time shopping.

If you look at it in terms of raw numbers, the average person watches 35 hours of TV each week, the average commute time is one hour per day round-trip, and you can spend at least another hour per week for grocery shopping.

All in all, that’s a total of 43 hours per week, and at least some of that could be spent reading books.

4. Buy an e-reader

In the same Pew research study that showed Americans’ reading habits, Pew also noted that the average reader of e-books reads 24 books in a year, compared to a person without an e-reader who reads an average of 15.

Could you really read nine more books a year just by purchasing an e-reader?

Certainly the technology is intended to be easy-to-use, portable, and convenient. Those factors alone could make it easier to spend more time reading when you have a spare minute. Those spare minutes might not add up to nine books a year, but it’ll still be time well spent.

5. Read more by not reading at all

This is quite counterintuitive advice, and it comes from a rather counterintuitive book.

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, written by University of Paris literature professor Pierre Bayard, suggests that we view the act of reading on a spectrum and that we consider more categories for books besides simply “have or haven’t read.” Specifically, Bayard suggests the following:

  • books we’ve read
  • books we’ve skimmed
  • books we’ve heard about
  • books we’ve forgotten
  • books we’ve never opened.

He even has his own classification system for keeping track of how he’s interacted with a book in the past.

UB book unknown to me

SB book I have skimmed

HB book I have heard about

FB book I have forgotten

++ extremely positive opinion

+ positive opinion

negative opinion

extremely negative opinion

Perhaps the key to reading more books is simply to look at the act of reading from a different perspective? In Bayard’s system, he essentially is counting books he’s skimmed, heard about, or forgotten as books that he’s read. How might these new definitions alter your reading total for the year?

3 ways to remember what you read

Train your brain with impression, association, and repetition

A great place to start with book retention is with understanding some key ways our brain stores information. Here are three specific elements to consider:

  1. Impression
  2. Association
  3. Repetition

Let’s say you read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, one of our favorites here at Buffer. You loved the information and want to remember as much as possible. Here’s how:

Impression – Be impressed with the text. Stop and picture a scene in your mind, even adding elements like greatness, shock, or a cameo from yourself to make the impression stronger. If Dale Carnegie is explaining his distaste for criticism, picture yourself receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace and then spiking the Nobel Prize onto the dais.

(Another trick with impression is to read an important passage out loud. For some of us, our sensitivity to information can be greater with sounds rather than visuals.)

Association – Link the text to something you already know. This technique is used to great effect with memorization and the construction of memory palaces. In the case of Carnegie’s book, if there is a particular principle you wish to retain, think back to a time when you were part of a specific example involving the principle. Prior knowledge is a great way to build association.

Repetition – The more you repeat, the more you remember. This can occur by literally re-reading a certain passage or in highlighting it or writing it down then returning to it again later.

Practicing these three elements of remembering will help you get better and better. The more you work at it, the more you’ll remember.

Focus on the four levels of reading

Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Read a Book, identifies four levels of reading:

  1. Elementary
  2. Inspectional
  3. Analytical
  4. Syntopical

Each step builds upon the previous step. Elementary reading is what you are taught in school. Inspectional reading can take two forms: 1) a quick, leisurely read or 2) skimming the book’s preface, table of contents, index, and inside jacket.

Where the real work (and the real retention begins) is with analytical reading and syntopical reading.

With analytical reading, you read a book thoroughly. More so than that even, you read a book according to four rules, which should help you with the context and understanding of the book.

  1. Classify the book according to subject matter.
  2. State what the whole book is about. Be as brief as possible.
  3. List the major parts in order and relation. Outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
  4. Define the problem or problems the author is trying to solve.

The final level of reading is syntopical, which requires that you read books on the same subject and challenge yourself to compare and contrast as you go.

As you advance through these levels, you will find yourself incorporating the brain techniques of impression, association, and repetition along the way. Getting into detail with a book (as in the analytical and syntopical level) will help cement impressions of the book in your mind, develop associations to other books you’ve read and ideas you’ve learned, and enforce repetition in the thoughtful, studied nature of the different reading levels.

Keep the book close (or at least your notes on the book)

One of the most common threads in my research into remembering more of the books you read is this: Take good notes.

Bookmarks

Scribble in the margins as you go.

Bookmark your favorite passages.

Write a review when you’ve finished.

Use your Kindle Highlights extensively.

And when you’ve done these things, return to your notes periodically to review and refresh.

Shane Parrish of Farnam Street is a serial note taker, and he finds himself constantly returning to the books he reads.

After I finish a book, I let it age for a week or two and then pick it up again. I look at my notes and the sections I’ve marked as important. I write them down. Or let it age for another week or two.

Even Professor Pierre Bayard, the author of How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, identifies the importance of note-taking and review:

Once forgetfulness has set in, he can use these notes to rediscover his opinion of the author and his work at the time of his original reading. We can assume that another function of the notes is to assure him that he has indeed read the works in which they were inscribed, like blazes on a trail that are intended to show the way during future periods of amnesia.

I’ve tried this method for myself, and it has completely changed the way I perceive the books I read. I look at books as investments in a future of learning rather than a fleeting moment of insight, soon to be forgotten. I store all the reviews and notes from my books on my personal blog so I can search through them when I need to remember something I’ve read.

(Kindle has a rather helpful feature online, too, where it shows you a daily, random highlight from your archive of highlights. It’s a great way to relive what you’ve read in the past.)

Kindle highlights

It’s not important which method you have for note-taking and review so long as you have one. Let it be as simple as possible to complete so that you can make sure you follow through.

Over to you

How many books do you read each year? What will be your goal for this year? What’s your best tip for reading more and remembering more? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like The Two Brain Systems that Control Our Attention: The Science of Gaining Focus and 5 Unconventional Ways to Become a Better Writer (Hint: It’s About Being a Better Reader).

Image credits:  Patrick Gage via Compfight, eyetracking.me, OpenSpritz,

Tom Preston-Werner’s GitHub Is an Exceptionally Free Place for Open-Source Software | MIT Technology Review

San Francisco startup GitHub has all the hallmarks of the next big social network. The company’s base of 3.6 million users is growing fast, and after raising $100 million last year, GitHub was worth $750 million, at least on paper.

Yet GitHub is not a place for socializing and sharing photos. It’s a site where software developers store, share, and update their personal coding projects, in computer languages like Java and Python.

“It’s a social network, but it’s different from the others because it’s built around creating valuable things,” says GitHub CEO Tom Preston-Werner, whose company has been called “Facebook for geeks.”

GitHub’s mix of practicality and sociability have made it into a hub for software innovation. People log on from around the globe (78 percent of its users from outside the U.S.) to test and tinker with new ideas for mobile apps or Web server software. For Ethan Mollick, an assistant professor at the Wharton School, GitHub is one of a new class of technology platforms, including the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, that allow innovation without the traditional constraints of geography or of established hierarchies. “Virtual communities have more influence on reality now,” he says.

What all this could mean for software hubs like Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley isn’t yet clear. Certainly, in the post-GitHub world you no longer have to frequent the right coffee shops and parties in the Bay Area to make a name as a talented coder. Companies get founded on the site, and it’s a favorite hunting ground for recruiters as well.

The features of GitHub’s service and community that have driven its popularity could appear opaque to non-coders. The guiding principle is that any and all possible barriers to one person contributing to someone else’s project must be stripped away. That means avoiding e-mail and conventional management. “That idea of not having to ask permission to be involved in something is really big,” says Preston-Werner.

Preston-Werner says GitHub, launched in 2008, has been profitable, and signs up around 10,000 new users every day. The newest feature of its business model is to rent out a version to companies they can use internally. In Marissa Mayer’s first company-wide memo after becoming CEO of Yahoo last year, she listed GitHub as one of the ways she intended to fix her company’s stifling bureaucracy.

GitHub’s most important feature is the pull request. It allows a person to suggest a modification to the code of someone else’s project, and shows that suggestion to the project’s owner in a way that makes it easy for them to review the changes. A single mouse click can merge them into the project or start a discussion about the changes. If a person’s pull request doesn’t stick, they can “fork” the project to create a parallel version on GitHub with their idea included.

GitHub’s only physical location is an office in San Francisco where about one-third of its 176 employees work (the rest work from their homes, coffee shops, or rented desks in the U.S. or overseas). No one at the company has set working hours. Some show up at noon and work into the night, others arrive close to dawn and disappear by midafternoon. Only Preston-Werner, as CEO, has a formal job title. Everyone else uses generic or frequently changing descriptors such as “Bad Guy Catcher” or “Señor Open Sorcerer.”

GitHub now plays a major supporting role in the creation of widely used open-source software, and the company uses it to maintain and expand its own service as well. Although Preston-Werner may set the overall goal of such projects, details of how it will be achieved are left to his workforce. Teams of GitHub workers form on an ad-hoc basis, growing, shrinking, and melting away as the company’s needs change and people find new things to work on.

Meetings are seen as a tragic waste of time, and thanks to the pull request, fewer are needed. “I don’t think we’ll ever have to hire managers,” says Preston-Werner.

Preston-Werner hopes his philosophy will spread and that more kinds of work will happen on GitHub. The platform already has features targeted at designers working on images. Some journalistsacademics, and even the White House are also experimenting with GitHub to collaborate on articles and write research and policy documents. “Software is where we’re starting, but the vision can encompass a much broader scope than that,” says Preston-Werner.

Tom Preston-Werner’s GitHub Is an Exceptionally Free Place for Open-Source Software | MIT Technology Review.

How SMBs use (Cloud)startup software to save big bucks

Its a cliche to say Cloud is disruptive. Its already mainstream as evidenced by the adoption across the spectrum. I came across this article which expounds on this theme. Below are some excerpts:

CEO and founder David Soutar said that almost all of the software they used had come out of the startup community, and that because they can relate to how the development process works, they are willing to accept a few bugs here and there. But it also means that the businesses creating these products understand that startups don’t have a lot of money to spend, and price themselves accordingly.

“The companies that come from startup roots understand that as a startup company, you don’t have a lot of money to spend.

In fact, Soutar sees the minimal features of Google Apps and similar cloud services as being a cost saving compared to “installable” applications.

And there are areas where enterprise systems haven’t yet caught up. For example, WattCost is using Flowdock to tie everything together on the social media and, to a degree, customer relationships management side. It’s a combination of an internal instant messaging system and an inbox that can be hooked into other services like Twitter, Facebook, Zendesk, and GitHub.

http://www.zdnet.com/case-study-how-smbs-use-startup-software-to-save-big-bucks-7000017488/

Brilliant Definition of a Evernote User

Someone who has a poor understanding of life-work balance. They’re always thinking about everything. Someone who’s answering email at 11 p.m. on a Saturday, but also someone who’s reading restaurant reviews and recommendations at the office. The modern knowledge worker.

Read on @ http://www.wired.com/business/2013/07/evernote-10-questions/

How I Created a Global Cloud Product , Ran a Global Ad Campaign – In 24 hours and What Happened ?!

I have been closely involved in the Startup scene for quite some time now, in fact for slightly more than a decade. During this course, I have experimented with different business models – Setting up, Legal aspects, product management, customer feedback, sales, the works.

Given the recent take-off in  Cloud based businesses and with sometime in my hands, I decided to test the waters of the Cloud. For non-cloud folks, the Cloud represents a new way of using software – all you need is a PC, Browser and a Website link which allows you to access the software. For greater understanding of the Cloud, you can read the rest of my Blog posts.

So I tied up with a Cloud Provider as their reseller(more on that elsewhere) and started plotting my campaign. Fast forward, the product was ready, pricing catalog completed and branding done. Its time to jump into the lucrative(?) world of online ad campaigns. Given the nature of business, it was logical to try this with the new LinkedIn Ad product. simply put, I deduced I was in the B2B space and only corporate guys will buy this cloud software. Which means they pay a subscription month over month till they fall exhausted. While the subscription revenues pour in globally into my bank accounts. Or So I thought. You can check http://exult.runhosting.com for the full product details, with pricing et al.

Cutting short my logistics trip thru linkedin, Here I was on their Ad management site. So I created my Ad Campaign – Cloud Hosting. LinkedIn was kind enough to allow for two variations of the Ad. They were also kind enough to warn me to select payment only when someone clicks on my Ad(CTR) and not when someone sees my ad (CPC)

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Then came the real campaign planning as you can see below. This took several hours of thinking and coffee whichever order you deem fit!  So, I decided to do a Global campaign targetting decision makers with a Grand budget of $60 to be run for 24 hours.

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And I pressed Confirm!

The Campaign launched globally!  I ran it over a dawn to dusk schedule to cover the US and Europe market. There was no clicks or activity for the first few hours. So I had to retire to bed and wake up a Billionaire !  so as you can imagine the tension was palpable.

Next Day:

I jumped from my bed to check my LinkedIn account and my bank account simultaneously. I wasn’t sure if the bank was fast enough to credit my first billion so I kept another bank account on standby.

Sure enough, there were 3 folks who had clicked on my ads and wanted me to contact them. My heart skipped a beat. Sure enough, a Billion starts with a few dollars in the first place. and my ad had stopped giving me some more time to re-run my ads.

So I did tap away response emails with follow-up phone calls. To cut short my agony and sorrow, two of the leads didn’t respond to my mails. The third fellow from Delhi (of all places!) wanted to know how he can get a job away from India(at my expense and phone call). There ended my hopes of cruising the high seas as a Billionaire, the first Vegetarian One to conquer the Cloud.

Lesson Learnt:  To earn a small fortune in Las Vegas, You first come with a Large fortune!

Still, I do have the satisfaction of creating a Global product, launching a Global campaign, reaching thousands of decision makers, all with an investment of $60 and in 24 hours. Thats the Power of the Cloud which is essentially what I set out to Prove and had a Complete Success!

If you would like more details, do drop a note to nckumar@gmail.com or comment on this post. I will revert. Meantime, here are the snapshots from the campaign.

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Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything

Steve provides a timely and concise masterpiece on the changing nature of business as we know it. He has been a big proponent of the Lean Startup for sometime now. I could relate to much of what he says thanks to the three startups I launched and the lessons learnt therein.

He says and I quote ” The first hundred years of management education focused on building strategies and tools that formalized execution and efficiency for existing businesses. Now, we have the first set of tools for searching for new business models as we launch start-up ventures. It also happens to have arrived just in time to help existing companies deal with the forces of continual disruption. In the 21st century those forces will make people in every kind of organization—start-ups, small businesses, corporations, and government—feel the pressure of rapid change. The lean start-up approach will help them meet it head-on, innovate rapidly, and transform business as we know it”.

Read more : http://hbr.org/2013/05/why-the-lean-start-up-changes-everything/ar/1

Why You Must Test Your Hypotheses!