We are not well adapted to the world of abundance. In the past, information was scarce and valuable.
But in marvelous lands of modernity, we have access to way too much content. Just like with food, we must learn to consume it mindfully and responsibly. Here is how I handle it:
My principles for reading
My entire “system” is designed to satisfy the following 3 principles:
1. Do not read crap
I prefer to read nothing than crappy clickbait. The best approach to avoiding low-quality content is never to start reading it. The next best thing is to stop reading it the moment you realize it’s not great.
If you are struggling through a book, you have my permission to abandon it right now.
2. You have to get something out of it
Read either for pleasure, knowledge, or both. Infotainment is an excellent way to learn, but it has to contain some actionable items.
There is a very successful genre of non-fiction that only makes you feel like you are learning something, improving yourself, or getting valuable tips.
News, for example, is not giving you an accurate picture of the world, nor is it making you feel better. This article explains why following news is a bad idea.
3. Knowledge is a graph
If it’s for knowledge, integrate what I read with my existing knowledge. Otherwise, it will be lost in the bottomless pit of my brain forever.
My reading flow
My media “diet” looks as follows:
I listen to fiction almost exclusively on Audible, preferably while outside and moving. If it’s a particularly entertaining book, it motivates me to spend more time outdoors or working out. Win-win.
I avoid reading new articles straight away because the urgency usually makes them more appealing than it really is. So instead, I put new pieces to the Pocket app.
I have pocket sorted in the oldest-first order (as opposed to the default newest-first setting). This is because, by the time I get to the article I just put there, it will no longer be urgent or relevant.
Usually, I wonder why it was a good idea to read it and delete the article without reading it.
I try to highlight exciting takeaways while reading. Sometimes these highlights are valuable, but seeking takeaways makes me more mindful and read more carefully.
For similar reasons, I read books mainly on Kindle or the Kindle app. I extolled both virtues in For the love of Kindle – the ultimate nomad library.
For Kindle books, you can add the Audible version to your book in the Kindle app. You can seamlessly switch between listening to an audiobook, reading the regular version, and making highlights.
You have to pay for both versions, but if you are not getting more value out of this book anyway, you should not be reading it.
There are two podcasting apps that I know of that let you do highlights:
While listening to a podcast episode in one of these apps, you can press the “back” button on your headset (or triple tap the AirPods) to mark that point of the episode. Later, in the app, you will see a transcription of that moment. It has been a game changer for content-heavy podcasts like The Tim Ferriss show or the Huberman Lab.
All of the sources mentioned above connect to a fantastic app called Readwise.
Readwise automatically exports my highlights to my note-taking app (currently Logseq), where I can review, pull quotes on the fly and access everything I deem worthy.
All my blog posts and newsletter issues are compilations of those notes, and all are fueled by what I am reading. Quality of inputs matters.