We’re consuming more information than ever before, but we’re not learning more.
Today we consume five times the information every day than we did in 1986. One would think this would translate into increased knowledge. Yet this does not appear to be the case; scores of average American adults on tests of general civic knowledge have remained almost constant for the last 80 years. We’re consuming more information but not learning more. In short, we have become less productive learners.
By applying an intentional approach to consuming information and best practices of how we learn, we can reverse this trend. Here are four ways to become a more productive learner.
• Focus the majority of your information consumption on a single topic for several months. Spreading your consumption habits too thin has real consequences.
• Put what you’re learning into “frameworks.” Frameworks act as the internal architecture for our brains, creating “rooms” for the information we receive. They help us retain new information by associating it in a structured, repeatable way with what we already know.
• Regularly synthesize what you have learned. Synthesizing is challenging because it involves making sense of the new information in light of everything you already know. It differs from summarizing in that synthesizing involves bringing your opinion to bear about what is important.
• Cycle between information feasting and information fasting. It’s important that you have seasons when you limit your consumption of information, so you can focus on reviewing, considering and applying what you’ve already consumed. Remember that new information can interfere with previously acquired information.
We don’t have to be victims to the millions of blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, and even books demanding our attention but giving us little. Decide to become a productive learner and you can actually reap the benefits of the incredible increase in the amount and accessibility of information.