How to read fast and learn more? A structural method for the information age
Hey, it’s Dr. Liu here with Better LIFE Research TIPS. In a rapid changing world, we all need to keep learning for new knowledge. But the information explosion sometimes makes it difficult, and we need effective methods for quick learning. In this video, I will show you how to read fast and learn more in the age of information explosion. I hope it will add some value to your busy modern life.
Basically, there are two ways of reading. One is deep reading. The other is skimming. Both are great ways of learning. But the trend is, in the age of information explosion, deep reading become less common and maybe a luxury thing for many people, and we are more and more relied on skimming or fragmented reading to obtain new knowledge. And in this video, I will be focusing on the best method for skimming. And I will talk about the method for deep reading in another video.
First of all, when we are reading, we usually can remember more when we can relate what we are reading with something we already know. In fact, the most efficient way of learning is to connect the new knowledge with the existing knowledge in our brain. Therefore, before we start skimming to learn on a certain topic, we should first establish a knowledge framework on this topic. It is like a map in our brain. Skimming for new knowledge in the sea of information, is just like mining for gold in a big mountain. To have a map first is extremely important to improve our efficiency. The map can be from our existing knowledge. But more often, it comes from deep reading of classic works on the chosen topic. A prepared brain or some deep reading is prerequisite for efficient skimming.
After we complete some deep reading on a certain topic, we should be able to break down and conceptualize the topic, and thus construct a initial structure that include 5 to 7 key concepts that are essential for understanding of the topic. Then we can start skimming to enhance our knowledge on these key concepts. When we are skimming new books, new papers, or watching new videos, we are actually skimming with a clear purpose to look for any new ideas that could contribute to the better understanding of these key concepts. In this ways, we can read the new materials very fast. When we are skimming, our eyes are scanning around quickly like a searchlight. But every time when we find an interesting idea that we can resonate with, and can relate to one of the existing key concepts, we should pause, and write it down in our notebook. It is important to classify the new ideas, and take notes around the related key concepts, so that later it is easier to re-organize these new ideas. What we are doing, is like to stick the fragment information we obtained from skimming on the right location of a existing map of knowledge. During the skimming, very often, we may generate our own thoughts, and we should also take notes, write it down around the related key concepts.
After some skimming, we may accumulate more the 10 new ideas under each key concept. And it may be a good time to revise the structure of our knowledge framework based on the new information from skimming. By reviewing our notes, we may be able to identify new concepts or sub-concepts that deserve further study. Also, if some books we skimmed contribute significantly to the existing key concepts, these books may deserve a deep reading before we further skim more books. And we can repeat the cycle for multiple times.
The final step for a complete study is to review the notes under each key concept. The notes will include various ideas on a same key concept, and they are from different authors, and have views from different angles. When we put these ideas together, they may react with each other, and we may generate some new insights. It would be extremely helpful if we can reorganize these ideas in our own language and generate some kind of output. We may write an article, or teach somebody else on what we have learned. It is like refining the gold we collected from mining. In this way, the new knowledge is internalized and really becomes our own knowledge, and it will stay in our brain.
For example, when I want to study the topic of public speaking. First I conduct some deep reading to identify the key concepts that forms a basic structure for public speaking. They could include: the opening, the closing, how to handle stage fright, how to use visual aids, body languages, etc. And in my notebook, I dedicate 2 to 4 blank pages for each key concept. Then I start skimming various materials about public speaking. Every time I find something interesting, something I can resonate with, I write it down on the pages that are dedicated to the related key concept. After several round of skimming, I may accumulate enough information under each key concept. Then I can review all my notes, re-prioritize all the key concepts to improve my structure, and thus I can generate my own video on public speaking, and make this new knowledge more memorable.
This is what I call a structural method for reading or skimming. Before we start skimming, we construct a initial structure in our brain through deep reading. During skimming, we destruct what we are reading. We just search for fragment information that we can use to improve our structure. Then we rebuild the structure using the fragment information that we obtained from skimming. And eventually, we may be able to generate a new building through creative output. There are two keys here for the skimming process. The first is to read with a structure in mind. It will make our searching process more efficient. The second is to take notes in a structured way. It will make our rebuilding process more efficient. For the books we are skimming, we do not want to read from start to end in a linear way. We often jump around to look for information that we can resonate with right now.
You may argue that we are not actually reading the book and we may miss a lot of useful information from the book. It is true. But what really matters is not how much we read, it is how much we actually learned. And we can learn best when we can resonate with it. If we can not resonate much with a book, there may be two reasons. The first is, it is not a good book. The second is, our current knowledge level is not ready for the book. In either case, we should not spend much time on that book. Maybe after some time, as our knowledge is growing, when we revisit the same book, we may be able to resonate more and obtain more knowledge from the same book. That is why generally the more knowledgeable you are, the faster you can learn. Also, in the modern age, there are large uncertainties in quality of books due to the convenience of publication. Considering the 80/20 percent rule, it is quite common that, in an average book, roughly 80% of useful ideas come from just 20% of the text. The structural method can help us to save our time by only reading the most important and most relevant part of a book.
Thanks for watching, I am Dr. Liu with research tips for the underdogs. Reading is fun with the right method. Until next time, let’s keep reading for a better and more enriched life.
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