Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Reading with a Purpose!!!

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested".

- Francis Bacon, sixteenth-century English philosopher

Turning the pages of a magazine while sitting in a dentist's clinic is very different from pouring over the details of your new web-based transaction system in your office. Even though what you are doing in both the cases is going through some text or images, there is a big difference in "why" are you doing so. Or in other words, your purpose of reading is not the same when you read different things. You read a magazine in a dentist's clinic to kill time. But you read a technical specifications document to really understand how the damn application works. And herein lies the secret to effective reading.

Let's get back to reading a magazine in a dentist's clinic. The moment you pick up the magazine, you know in the back of your mind that this is just for killing time. You know that none of this stuff is worth remembering. And when your turn comes, you just drop the magazine and go off. You had a clear purpose before your started reading that magazine. Now the trick is to apply the same rule to all the reading that you do.

So, before you start reading anything, ask yourself -

  1. Why I am reading it? Is it for killing time? Is it for really learning something?

  2. How will I be using this stuff? Will it make me do things differently? Will it make me plan better? Will it get me a girlfriend?

  3. How important is this stuff to me? Is it worth remembering? If so, for how long? Is it just good for gossiping or has it got some real value?

  4. What level of detail I want? Do I want just the big picture? Can I read just a section to get what I want? Or should I read the whole book?

It takes less than a minute to establish a purpose but it can save you hundreds of hours. Hours that were spent reading 'Boing Boing', just because you felt you had to read that. Reading without having a purpose is like traveling without knowing where you are going. It might seem like fun but it won't get you anywhere. Add to that the tools at our disposal to flood us with information and you have the ultimate time-wasting machine.

Every time you read something, think of its purpose. Note it down. Then think of what made you start reading it in the first place. Compare the two. You're guaranteed to be surprised.

So next time you start reading a popular blog, ask yourself!!

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