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Does deep reading differ in digital?

Deep reading involves slowing down, concentrating on the meaning of what you are reading, highlighting key sentences, and sometimes flipping back to previous pages as necessary so you are sure to understand the information being communicated.

Reading is an active process in which you are searching out information with a highlighter or pen in hand while focusing fully on the task. I have recommended in the past, for instance, that to actively read an article, you might change the title into a question and search for the answer or answers as you read.

In order to focus effectively you must have adequate time to do so, and strong attention skills, one of the brain based “executive skills” that improves with age and practice.

The results of deep reading include enhanced comprehension and enjoyment of the text, improved memory and recall, and an increase in both your knowledge and your ability to think, analyse, and express yourself. It also exercises your brain.

This is not to say that you cannot participate in deep reading on screens when reading electronic books or web articles; but it is more difficult. The nature of the medium leaves you more vulnerable to interruptions – everything from advertising pop-ups to the notification of an email or incoming text message or a Twitter retweet. Also, people use the technology to save time, speed up work and get more done in an equivalent amount of time. The tendency is to grab snippets of information that appear relevant and ignore the rest. It is difficult to resist the urge to skim, skip ahead, and take quick side trips to check email or respond to a text message.

Most people find it difficult to slow down and focus on their reading when doing so on a computer or iPhone. Canadian author John Meidema refers to the web as a “distraction machine”, and indicates in his book, Slow Reading, that deep reading requires time, care and effort.

Nicholas Carr, in his book, The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains, claims that studies by psychologists, neurologists and educators find that when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Links are particularly distracting, and studies show that jumping between digital documents impedes understanding. Comprehension declines whether or not people actually click on them.

According to Carr’s book, the depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory (short-term memory) to long-term memory. But a bottleneck is created since working memory can only hold a relatively small amount at a time. When we are swamped with information, links, images, and advertising, the information spills over, so to speak, and doesn’t make it into our long-term storage. It’s like watering a house plant by continuing to pour on more water without giving it a chance to soak in. But when we read paper books for instance, we transfer information a little at a time into long-term memory and form associations essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom.

That being said, we have to face the fact that the digital age is here to stay. Every year more bookstores go out of business, and only the megastores survive. E-books are easy to buy, readily available and less expensive.

I still buy hardcopy books; because I find them easier to highlight, make notes in the margins, and to reference long after I’ve gone on to other books and topics. I tend to remember more of the information – even its location in the chapter – and I find this essential when using information in my books and articles. The flipping of pages with a highlighter in hand seems to keep me focused. And I’ve yet to experience eyestrain or headaches when reading a hardcopy book.

I do buy Kindle books as well, and currently have over 150 of them on my iPhone; but many of them are duplicates of the hardcopy versions in my library. This allows me to refer to them while travelling, and in waiting rooms – anywhere away from the office for that matter. The bulk of them are the free or 99 cents or $1.99 specials announced daily by BookBub.com. I use many of these for reference only.

If you have chosen the e-book route exclusively, remember the importance of concentration. According to an article by Naomi Baron in the Washington Post, over 92% of those surveyed said they concentrate best when reading hardcopy. Reading is not a passive exercise like watching TV.

And don’t forget the human aspect of reading. How many family members gather around the fireplace with their e-readers in hand or take their iPhones to the monthly book club meetings?

Well, maybe that’s changing as well.

 

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You don’t have to throw a fit when you throw something out.

In the August, 2018 issue of Psychology Today, Glen Adamson, author of the book, “Fewer, better things” is said to believe that we should limit our purchases to things we find to be beautiful, meaningful or useful. Since at least two of these three requirements are in the mind of the purchaser, this tells me that anything goes. It may be a sensible suggestion; but does little to curb my spending habits nor reduce any clutter that may appear in my small apartment.

Marie Kondo, author of the book, The life-changing magic of tidying up and spark joy, urges us to get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy. But depending on your mood at the time, this could prompt you to discard everything you own. And according to an article by Sara Eckel in the same issue of Psychology Today, at least one woman later regretted that she had parted with her beloved books and her late father’s favourite radio.

Stories like this that make me thankful that I limit my coaching of individuals to helping them manage their time as opposed to managing their possessions. The two are certainly related. The more possessions you have, the greater the demand on your time. But at least I feel no guilt in letting them make their own decisions when it comes to tossing stuff.

I have great respect for those professional organizers who help people make decisions as to what to keep and what to toss. We are complicated beings, and it seems impossible to get inside our heads and analyse our thought processes. For example, I couldn’t even begin to fully explain why I could never part with that vintage 1930s typewriter on my credenza even if I were offered $1 million for it.

I like Sara Eckel’s statement: “The key questions: is your stuff – or lack of it – interfering in your life? Does it make you feel overwhelmed? Are you aggravating the people you live with by leaving your possessions everywhere, or by tidying their things?”

Possessions do not necessarily equate to clutter. I have a locker full of possessions that I refuse to part with. I can visit them at any time – without them interfering with my efficiency or effectiveness while I am working in my home office. I realize they will be quickly discarded by my children when I’m gone; but they are my security blanket. They ensure me that I have led a life of significance. I will always have a past, even though I may someday be unable to recall it. I have had friends, experiences and accomplishments – and have loved and been loved.

This allows me to concentrate fully on the present, continuing to do what I love doing, and making new friends, having new experiences, and continuing to lead a life of purpose.

Having said all this, people should listen to all the advice they can get, and some of that may resonate with their own beliefs and help them make their own decisions. For example, here are a few thoughts and ideas I have culled from books and articles such as those mentioned above.

  • Living with less stuff has made many people more clear-headed and content.
  • Lugging bags of usable stuff to thrift shops such as those of the Salvation Army, might leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. It certainly provides a service to others.
  • You are not being disrespectful of someone, whether living or dead, if you toss something they gave to you. They live in your heart, not in the object.
  • Having less stuff in your home, all of which consume time and space, can improve communication and allow you to focus on what is truly important in your family.
  • For every item that holds special meaning to you, there are likely a dozen or more that don’t. If you made an error by purchasing something, don’t compound the error by keeping it.
  • A certain amount of clutter is normal; but its continued growth is unhealthy. Consider nipping it in the bud.

On a more personal note, I find that I work and live much better in an organized, clutter-free environment. And the few things I have tossed and later regretted were more than offset by the hundreds of things I got rid of and never missed.

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Fatal phrases at the front and finish of meetings.

We have all had our fill of the common suggestions for conducting effective meetings – everything from starting on time and ending on time to working with a timed agenda. But I want to add some statements and questions that as a chairperson you might want to avoid.

“Anybody have a good joke before we begin?”

This is rarely, if ever asked. But some participants seem to think the ritual of an icebreaker such as this is mandatory. Socialize before and after the meeting if you wish to do so, but time is valuable, and some people can ill afford to waste any of it. If 10 people are present and earning an average of $60 per hour, those jokes are costly – $10 per minute. Would you pay $50 to hear a five minute “shaggy dog” story?

“If you know of anyone else who should be on this committee, let me know.”

Sure let’s make the committee as inefficient and ineffective as possible. We all know that the effectiveness of a meeting varies indirectly with the number of people present.  And according to the book, Decide and Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough and Performance in your Organization, once you have seven people in a decision-making group, every additional person reduces effectiveness by 10 percent. This is referred to as the “Rule of Seven.” Once the number exceeds twelve, you will find it very difficult to accomplish the meeting’s objectives. The old bromide that two heads are better than one assumes that both hands are thinking in the same direction.

 “Anything else before we adjourn?”

Please, let’s waste as much time as possible while we’re all here – we’re on a roll! If you have already finished the agenda, including any “new business” items, why drag it out? It’s not a crime to finish a meeting earlier than the estimated ending time. That was indicated only so you can plan your day accordingly. And the time allocated to each item was an indication of its importance and how you should manage yourself during the discussion. The actual ending time of any meeting should be when the objective of the meeting has been reached. Any time redeemed is a gift.

“Everyone please get their reports to me as soon as possible.”

You’re asking for trouble. That’s another way of saying, “Get them to me whenever you get around to it.” Not only should specific people be responsible for submitting specific reports, they should also have specific dates to submit them. And those dates should be before the next meeting. Not only are you to assign responsibilities and deadlines, you will have to follow up with the people concerned to ensure that actions decided at the meeting are completed on schedule.

“Let’s all sleep on it and we’ll make the decision at the next meeting.”

By all means. At the next meeting, we may not have a quorum and can delay it even longer. And we want to make sure we have enough items to discuss at the next meeting. We also will have to explain the item to anyone not at this current meeting as well. That should waste a bit more time. Sleeping on it will only increase your sleep, not your wisdom. Make the decision now and get it over with.

If you would like more information on conducting effective meetings, refer to my e-book, Make your meetings more productive, published by Bookboon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bringing you up to speed.

27 years ago, I wrote the following article titled, “Don’t become obsessed with speed: save some time for the things you enjoy.” I thought I would reproduce it here in its entirety, complete with its outdated references to such things as speedy memos and videos. We had no iPhones, iPads, email or instant messaging in those days, and yet we complained about the fast pace of life. It had taken about 38 years for radio to be adopted by 50 million people, and when TV came along it took only 13 years. But it only took iPad two years and Google Plus 88 days. Speed continues to increase. How are you coping? Here’s the article.

September, 1991.

“Ever get the feeling you’re being rushed through life with little opportunity to enjoy its pleasures enroute? Stopping briefly at O’Hara international Airport in Chicago, I was confronted with the following fast food outlets for travellers in a hurry:

Speedy Buns and Rolls.

Ice Cream Express.

Hasty Pastry.

Deli in a Hurry.

Lightning Lounge.

Bun on the Run.

Mexican in a Minute.

Fast Far East.

These names seem to exemplify the prevailing atmosphere in North America. No longer is rapid transit a mode of transportation; it’s a way of life. People don’t seem to be as concerned with where they are going as with how soon they get there. Who has the time to set goals, plan and determine a course of action?

Get rich quick schemes, accelerated learning and rapid advancement are valued far more than quality relationships and the more tranquil lifestyle. Our society seems to place an unhealthy emphasis on getting things done quickly. We have fast foods, instant puddings and TV dinners. We are wooed by rapid transit, express lanes, fast checkouts and even quickie divorces. We use hasty notes, speedy memos and travelling requisitions. Fast living is in vogue.

We have electronic tellers, moving sidewalks and vending machines that dispense everything from nylons to videos. Escalators allow us to run upstairs faster. Self-serve service stations, bag-your-own supermarkets and stand-up restaurants help to keep us on the move.

Even company names reflect the value of this haste: Speedy muffler, Road Runner, Speed Queen, and Quickasair. Pizza parlours guarantee 30 minute service. Signs promise no waiting.

Time management courses are particularly appealing because they explain how we can get things done faster. Oh, they contain valuable counsel, such as the importance of family time, leisure and personal goals; but even the seminars are being conducted more quickly to meet the demands of people in a hurry. Three-hour and even one hour courses are becoming more popular. Most people seem to be after a quick fix for what ails them.

With speed seems to come a lack of control. We get the feeling we are being whisked through life as though there is a plan for our life, but we’re not in it. And just as to do lists create the impression that crossing off items is a measure of progress, so are we being conditioned to believe that speed is a measurement of accomplishment.

How is all this affecting the quality of life? Already liquid breakfasts allow us to skip time at the table, electronic games replace the need of a partner, and everything we could ever desire is being piped onto our TV screens, eliminating the necessity for social interaction. Where will it end?

It’s great to be able to save time. But to what end? Some people have become so obsessed with saving time that they are cutting time off those things they were trying to save time for. The objective of time management is to spend less time on meaningless activities and routine activities so we will have more time to spend on the meaningful activities. It is not meant to reduce the time being spent on those meaningful activities.

Some of us enjoy a leisurely meal with our family, a night out with their friends and conversation with other human beings. Some of us even enjoy shopping in person, dawdling in a restaurant, or getting exercise the old-fashioned way, walking.

Hang onto those things you enjoy. Don’t allow yourself to be swept along by the tyranny of the times. Make sure you are not shaving time from what you consider quality time.

There’s a story about a speeding motorist who gave this explanation to a policeman who had stopped him: “Officer, this road is so dangerous that I was hurrying to get off it.” He could just as well have claimed that life is so dangerous and that he was hurrying to get through it. Many of us behave as though this were true.

There is certainly nothing wrong with becoming more efficient at accomplishing more in less time; but let’s not be blinded to the fact that speed sometimes distracts us from our values and life goals. Efficiency is doing things in the best possible way; but effectiveness is doing the best possible things. Those things are activities which reflect our values.

During goal-setting sessions people were asked to list the personal activities that were most rewarding, enjoyable and productive. Most people were able to do this with little difficulty. When asked to record the date or month they last perform such activities, they had trouble recalling it because it had been so long ago.

It’s one thing to set goals. It’s quite another to ensure that our daily and weekly activities reflect those goals. This requires constant review as to what we are doing. And it is difficult to review while going at breakneck speed.

Let’s not keep pace with the crowd; but keep pace with our plan – constantly reviewing our progress towards the goals that we have set.”

July, 2018.

Well, it’s 27 years later, and life doesn’t appear to have slowed down any. Have you managed to maintain adequate time for those things that you really enjoy, and that reflect your values? Or has your iPhone just dinged, stimulating a shot of dopamine, which now compels you to access Twitter to confirm that one of your one-liners has just been re-tweeted by one of your 1200 followers?