Read. As often and as widely as you can. This is life experience free from others who have put the time in already. This is a great way to understand your own misconceptions, biases and motivations.
Purposes of Reading
Initially let me outline that I (and probably you) read for a number of purposes. I love to read for recreation. A good Stephen King I find hard to put down, and as I’ve grown older I’ve found the subjects I couldn’t have cared less about at school are now fascinating to me.
Work requires reading, or at least consumption. If you are in any kind of knowledge work, and even if you are not, the skills, techniques and good practice of your trade or profession evolve and require updating on the part of the end user.
And then there is reading for research. In the modern workplace this can take many forms, from strategic and incremental academic research, to finding inspiration, or reading around a subject to find that exciting new direction to push off into next.
As an educator the importance of a growth mindset in modelling lifelong learning as well as current pedagogy is a key quality to cultivate in yourself. There are many ways to reduce the friction of building these skills. There are also many ways to utilise tech to support this, and fit in around your lifestyle and habits. I’m going to explore a few this week – I hope you find some useful.
Read a Book, kinda
If you like to read in the traditional sense then I highly recommend borrowing a kindle from a friend to see if the digital version is equally agreeable to you. There are many benefits of reading a digital book in terms of storage, search, retrieval, not to mention the space saving and convenience factors. This is my current favourite for price vs functionality.
Read It Later
If you find yourself coming across a lot of online content then a ‘read it later’ service such as Pocket is a game changing tool for gathering content and consuming it at more convenient times. Pocket is my favourite, but there are many services like this. In essence, when you find something online that you want to read at another time, you hit the browser extension button and the page is clipped to your account. From there you can access it at a better time on one of your devices, clip useful parts, archive your own version in case the source is removed, and tag it for search. This one tool has totally changed the way I experience the internet, and helped me systematise knowledge acquisition from the clumsy way I used to stumble across useful content and keep things in the most haphazard way. I love me a read it later tool!
If you have never given audiobooks a go I highly recommend trying it out. This can really up your reading opportunities as audiobooks can be consumed while doing a wide range of other tasks. I highly recommend Audible. I have their basic membership and find with other services as well that this is enough to allow me to download a new book per month and supplement it with other material. Their subscriptions work upwards from there and you can purchase credit bundles as well if you prefer. Audible also have an ever changing range of free reads that they cycle through covering most of the genre on the service. Being able to increase the speed of reading is an excellent facility unique to audio books. I read everything at between 1.8x and 2.0x now, depending on the original speed of the voice reading the book. It means you can read a ten hour book in five hours, which is the time it takes to drive to and from work for a week. Dead time, that I can reclaim for something useful.
(Don’t) Go To Your Library
Your local library will also have a free equivalent that you can get started with. For my area that is BorrowBox, but you can go ask very easily. I find this to be excellent. The app (in the case of BorrowBox) is arguably almost as good as other paid for services, and allows me to reserve and read audio books and digital books. I may not get the one I want instantly, but I can read for free from my own devices all the same.
Get Anything Read to You
Some apps like Speechify will let you upload your own docs that it will read to you. The free version has been enough to tell me this is an invaluable tool. I can’t quite justify the subscription to myself yet, but I know I’m going to hit it soon, as there is so much that I’m like to be able to consume that way. Here is my Speechify referral link if you did want to check it out
Read in the Comfort of Your own Software
Many of the tools we use daily often have hidden reading facilities built in. I live in Microsoft Teams, Office and OneNote. Most of that ecosystem now has Immersive Reader built in as part of the learning Tools suite. Without going out to any third party tools, Office apps can read your pages to you, and offer similar speed and voice choices as the paid for solutions. The voice isn’t quite as natural as the commercial offerings yet, but it’s getting there. Look at what you use daily, it may well do more than you know yet.
But is it all ‘Quality’ Reading
Above I’ve outlined some ways to consume books and other reading content. But they aren’t all equal in the focus they take or create when reading. And that’s okay. I may take several runs at a book over years, and when researching it’s possible a light ‘drive by’ with an audiobook version
What do I do with all this?
If I have learnt one thing over the years, it is that nothing is wasted. I now keep an element(!) of everything I consume, or create. It will be useful later. I don’t know when now, but I know it will. It is having a way to keep things that is the tricky part. Many writers have shared thoughts on great systems for this. Here are a couple to get you started if you are interested:
Building a Second Brain – Tiago Forte. My approach is heavily influenced by Tiago’s method. It is easy to implement and flexible.
How to Take Smart Notes – Again, this is an excellent read and approach. This book is largely describing and interpreting the Zettlekasten method. Possibly too much method for many people, but if you find yourself generating a lot of research and creating your own content, it is well worth exploring.
Over the coming episodes I will be following on with an exploration of this topic as well, as managing too much can be as changing as not having enough material. If we want to ‘start from a place of abundance’ (see Building a Second Brain, above) we need to have a way to keep things that matter. See you for that one soon.