I’m often reminded that smart people don’t retain information they have no immediate need for.
In a coaching call once with Ross Richards, he said, ‘I’d like to work on my planning techniques now. I don’t feel I have good management in that area.’
‘Do you remember what I wrote about in the April and May issues?’ I asked.
He didn’t remember the articles I’d written about four months earlier. He’d skimmed the articles, but at the time the topic wasn’t at the top of his consciousness so the information wasn’t retained. However, it’s what he needs now – weekly and daily planning advice. The issue was quickly solved – I just emailed him copies of those articles. I also reminded him to download my free ebook ‘How to master time in only 90 seconds’ – https://www.gettingagrip.com/products/ebooks.html where the strategy of planning & prioritising is explained in more depth.
Ross began to apologise for not remembering.
‘Nothing to apologise for’, I said. ‘Actually, that’s great. Why read what you won’t retain?’
Think of the plethora of magazines and newspapers that land up in your mailbox most days. In the past we were encouraged to gather and hold any information we might need ‘one day’. At school and university we were encouraged to be gatherers of data, storekeepers of information. It was as if we had to stock up large amounts of knowledge against the time we’d need to roll it out from the storage barn of our mind.
But those days have gone. The successful people of this century are not the gatherers and keepers, but the ones who know how to filter out. They know how to avoid or eliminate information that’s currently irrelevant to them. They know that trying to absorb, retain and store everything that comes their way will clog them up, drag them down, and waste their time. In today’s highly connected cyber-world we have far too much information to manage. So, the fact that Ross hadn’t retained information in articles from three months back was great!
A few tips to help you better manage the contents of your mailbox
Read with purpose. Don’t read things you won’t remember, and don’t waste time reading things that won’t further you in any way. Many people plough through whatever’s under their nose – just because it’s there!
Have a reading pile, place and time. Keep everything you want to read in one place, away from your office. And if you set a regular time and place to do the reading you’ll find it doesn’t mount up as much.
Review the way you’ll use this particular information, before you start. Start with the end in mind.
Posture. Sit upright. Hold the book or magazine at a comfortable position. Have good overhead light, fresh air, plenty of water, and a comfortable temperature.
Read from the back of your head (your visual cortex) through your eyes, not from your eyes. You’ll have a broader vision.
Preview and review the material. If it’s a book, flick quickly through contents, index, information at the front and back. If it’s a paper or magazine, skim the cover, the contents, and flick fast through the pages without reading anything in depth. Then when you read it properly it’s already a little bit familiar and you’ll be able to scan and skim much faster.
Use a visual guide – usually your finger, or two fingers, depending on the size of the column of print. As little children we began by using our finger to guide our eyes as we sounded the words. Then we graduated to silent reading. The teacher told us to take our finger away but we continued to ‘say’ the words, inside our head. Speech is many times slower than sight, and yet many people roll into adulthood still silently speaking the words they read. No wonder they struggle. Their brain is bored, the information is therefore hard to retain, and they find themselves labouring over the work. One of the key elements of rapid reading is to use our finger at a very fast rate, running it down the page. We don’t need to read every word in order to comprehend and retain the information. All we need is chunks of text, and the sense is gathered at lightening speed.
Use a highlighter to mark anything you want to remember.
Go on a speed-reading course.