Monday, 7 September 2015

Take your time

One criticism that was levelled at me in early school reports is that I was always rushing to get things finished - and sometimes spoiling my work. This tendency nevertheless saw me through numerous exams and even my driving test ("you take the corners too quickly, but you're under control so I'm passing you").The past few years, I did like to think that this ability stood me in good stead to cope with the deluge, tsunami, eruption, call it what you will, of stuff I had to read on or via the internet.

All those 125-page reports that colleagues send round as pdfs with "I thought you'd be interested in this". All those books that GoodReads is challenging me to read to put my reading tally from last year in the shade. All those links on LinkedIn and other linky sites that contacts urge me I "must read."

But sometime in the last little while, my fast-reading really has turned into superficial skimming. None of this stuff actually enters my long-term memory. And I don't feel bad about it because the more I think about it, the chances that any of the senders of those 125-page pdfs have actually read or understood the thing are pretty minimal.

I've taken a decision to cut down on the amount I attempt to read. I'm either going to read stuff properly and thoroughly or not bother.

Reading is not the same as understanding.

Having a reaction is not the same as having an opinion.

There's a good blog post (which I have read all the way through, although I haven't followed all the links) from Farnam Street on this topic - the brain needs time to make associations, draw connections, form opinions. Maybe even as much time as advocated by The Long Now, with their 5-digit dates.

One thing I left behind when I left the UK was buying drinks in rounds. More often than not, you tried to keep up with the fastest drinker and ended up with memory loss and a stinking headache the next day.

 

2 comments:

Barbara Fisher said...

Hi Sue, I smiled when I read your last paragraph. I’ve been there and done that more times than I care to remember (even if I could remember!) but no more – my drinking is down to a minimum and a feel a lot better for it.

Dali's Persistence of Memory has always fascinated me, but I’m not a fan of the ‘melting clocks’ on sale in gift shops these days – there is something disturbing about them.

Sue Imgrund said...

When I first came to Germany it struck me as odd that people were expected to pay just for what they'd drunk in a bar - and, worse still, to remember how much they'd had. Sometimes the waiters make helpful tallies or 5-bar gates on the beer mats to remind you! But nineteen years on, it seems like a far more sensible solution that allows you to savour your drinks rather than knocking them back.