If you’re like me, then I'm sorry. But also, I’m sure you are trying to consume as much useful information as possible. Maybe you are trying to improve yourself or start a business. Maybe make a change in your life or become an expert at something. Maybe you are just super curious about stuff.
With so much information available in so many forms and increasing in volume day by day, it can seem never ending, yet we have limited time available in which to consume the information we seek.
Here are some useful tips for increasing the amount of information you can consume: -
Videos - watch at 1.25x speed
I like to watch a lot of YouTube videos. Sure there are plenty of hilarious fail compilations and kittens doing cute stuff, but there are also millions of informative and knowledge building videos on any one particular topic, so it is easy to find something useful. TED talks, in particular, are great.
The most useful videos tend to be 15-20 minutes long, or sometimes even longer. I usually don’t watch anything over 30 minutes unless I know I am going to get something really useful out of it.
If you are taking an online course, you will most likely have some video lectures to watch as well. This tip works just as well for them.
I recently started watching videos at 1.25x speed. At 1.25x speed, the audio is still easy to understand, and it is still slow enough to interpret and absorb. I can now watch 1 hour of content in 45 minutes. 15 minutes extra to learn something else.
I have tried videos at 1.5x speed, but it can be difficult if you are trying to concentrate on the audio and follow the video at the same time. Especially if there are presentation slides or graphics that help to explain a point.
Pod-casts - listen at 1.5x speed
I discovered pod-casts around 6 months ago, and I haven’t stopped since. It’s like an addiction. I have my favourites, but I also like finding something new. Like uncovering a hidden mine of information gems.
Listening to pod-casts is a great way to hear from experts, experienced individuals, or those just willing to share their stories. I want to make sure I can hear as many pod-casts as I can. With an average commute of 1 hour per day in the car, I have time to hear one or two episodes per day, depending on the length of the pod-cast. To squeeze a bit more out of them, I listen to them at 1.5x speed.
Because I'm driving, I don’t want to have to concentrate too hard on the speaker’s voice to comprehend what they are saying, so I keep it just a little faster than normal speed. I started at 1.25x and then pushed it up to 1.5x when I got used to it. It can take a few days to acclimatise but once you do it just begins to sound normal. Our brains are good like that.
Learn to read faster
I used to think speed reading was a super skill that a person had to have an innate ability to do. That, or that it was just a load of bullshit. In order to comprehend the text I am reading, I'm not sure how fast I will be able to read, but reading a little bit faster that normal speed will definitely be an advantage.
There are many, many paid courses available if you want to get really good at it, but for me, reading at twice the speed I previously was seems good enough. I'm not going to go into the technical details of how to read faster, but here’s a good article by Tim Ferriss, the author of The Four Hour Work Week, that explains the principles in some detail.
When I first tested myself I was reading pretty slow at around 180 words per minute. Top speed readers are up in the thousands of words per minute. I'm not expecting to get to that level, but getting to 350 or 400 words per minute would greatly increase the amount of information I can consume. After practising for a few days I'm currently at about 350 words per minute, so I have almost doubled my intake. I'm now aiming for 500+ wpm. It takes a little while to become comfortable with it, but once you get into a rhythm, you can really fly through the pages.
Be aggressive with your choices
A few weeks ago I looked at my inbox, I mean I really looked at it, and found that it was full of newsletters and the like. Each one full of seemingly useful information. Sometimes I'll forget I have even signed up for a newsletter, or why I signed up. I recognised that because these emails were still in my inbox after a weeks and weeks, it was obvious that there are too many for me to read each day.
I decided to become aggressive.
Step one was to unsubscribe from anything that I felt added no value at all. There were a couple, but not many.
Step two was to cull, aggressively. I decided that if I haven’t read an article or a newsletter within a few days, I have to delete it. This was an easy decision to make, but difficult to follow through for the first few days. My first reaction was “What if there was some gem of information that might prove to be incredibly valuable?” Bad luck. I forced myself to stick to the rule and delete. One important note; I actually delete the email, not archive it. No point in hoarding them for later reading when there is always new stuff to read.
Good luck with filling your brain with information. Here are a couple of my favourite videos and podcasts: