Wednesday March 17th, 2021

How I Read. How I Learn.

In the words of my dear colleague and mentor Jan Fischbach, reading is a life insurance policy for consultants. Because it’s all about knowledge. In addition to our own professional experience, we acquire this knowledge mainly through reading. In other words: Reading equals learning.

I was never a good learner at school. Memorizing and reproducing things at the behest of others and without any meaningful objective: What’s the point?

Fortunately, today, I escaped school. Today, I can deal with topics that are of real interest to me.

This, of course, is a different motivation. And what I know about learning, it is the only thing that guarantees successful learning. That’s the only way something can really stick.

However, my experience shows that interest alone is not enough for me to recall things. The question really is: How can I better keep things in mind? Preferably in such a way that I can remember and apply them correctly at the right time in the right situation.

Over time, I have found a system that works well for me.

My Way Of Learning (Short Version)

  1. Reading. (Print books)
  2. Taking notes. (Repeating important things)
  3. Visualising. (Repeat again)

My Way Of Learning (Long Version)

1. Media: Reading books and articles.
I really learn the most through books. Podcasts and videos are good too, but for various reasons learning works best for me via reading.

2. Thoroughness: Read texts completely.
I have tried speed reading and summarised reading. But I’ve found that it doesn’t work for me. Too little sticks in my mind. I suspect it’s because I feel I don’t get the whole picture. That important things slip through. So I read a text from beginning to end. And as concentrated as possible. (Which is not to say that I don’t occasionally “read over” texts).

3. Highlight: Highlighting while reading.
While I am reading, I mark passages that seem important to me. Even as I read, I ask myself whether what I am reading is really important and relevant to me. I use the markings to write out the passages afterwards.

4. Extracting: Writing out what is most important afterwards.
Once I have finished reading the book or text, I use the markings to write down the relevant passages. Either I write out verbatim quotations or I write down only the most important points in my own words. In this way, I read the relevant parts of the text a second time, which is important for learning (repetition effect).

5. Visualise: Making mental models out of it
A few years ago I discovered that mind maps help me a great deal. Not only for memorising, but also for quickly recalling information. So I write down important concepts, models and ideas one more time in my “cloud book”. This little book I can take with me. For example, in order to have it ready at a glance.

6. Explain: Write or talk about it.
A final and really important step for me is to explain to others what I think I have understood. This can be done in many ways: Blogposts, working-out-loud circles or even using the models in workshops.

All this may seem time-consuming. But for me there is no alternative, no shortcut to this effective method.

What do you think? Could this work for you too? What tricks do you have? Feel free to write me your experiences here in the comments or to!

What Else Comes To My Mind