Don’t read for new, read for now
If you downloaded all of the Internet, chose a topic like productivity, or language learning, and started to read and watch, you’d probably be busy for the rest of your life.
This is the first time in history that this is possible.
What does it mean for us?
Saying no more often and learning to exclude.
Let me explain.
In order to learn in the information rich world, we need to find a good resource, stick with it, focus, try and err. That is how we learn. It sounds simple, but a lot of mistakes happen in this process. Here’s a few examples:
trying to find the best resource, instead of using one good enough
failing to focus, letting attention wander to something else “What was I trying to do again?”
failing to put in the effort required to actually learn
failing to use a resource because the information is not new
Now, I’ll focus on the last example.
If you’ve ever read the Amazon reviews section, you know that there’s a lot of reviews stating how books repeat information from other books, cite the same basic studies, and essentially don’t bring anything new to the table. What’s the problem with that?
Here’s an illustration:
Fred goes on social media. There’s an interesting article on how to save 2 hours a week at work. He reads it, but finds that he knows most of the information there. He goes on browsing.
Both in Amazon reviews and in the illustration, useful information can and often is ignored because it’s not new.
By nature, we respond to new. New is exciting and we like it, that’s why we have news. But social media and the Internet in general has created an endless supply of new. Too much new. As a result, we’ve become largely desensitized to new and we require new-er new than yesterday. New is not a matter of weeks or days, it’s a matter of minutes and seconds. This has its consequences.
The challenge of today
There is enough information out there to make anyone’s life substantially better. And much more will come. Increasingly, the challenge is actually taking time to use the information. But you can’t do that when you’re on constant lookout for the new.
When you come across an idea you’ve seen before, it can be tempting to default to an ‘already know this’ attitude, because it’s not new enough. However, once in that frame of mind, there is not much chance that the idea will be used.
I suggest that instead of judging information based on whether it’s new or not, look at whether it can be useful for you right now. And if so, how? Brainstorm. Take a piece of paper, disconnect and think. It won’t hurt, I promise. Really do something with what you’ve learned.
Focus on what can help you now, instead of what’s new.