MasterHowToLearn

MasterHowToLearn

Incremental Reading: The Problem Isn't Content Quantity or Quality. It's Content Consumption

2020-05-05 2020-12-26 2021-02-07

TL;DR: Import all articles, books, videos (Incremental Video), all that good stuff into SuperMemo. Set priority and let the algorithm handle the scheduling.

In this article, I’m not going to explain what Incremental Reading (IR) is. Please read my IR articles like IR explanation and IR demo for that. Instead, I’m going to focus on the soft side: the need of knowledge management.

It’s about how to consume content, not what to consume

The Internet has enabled you to read and learn more than you can ever hope for. Given the amount of information available, the need for knowledge management is more important than ever. You don’t need to be told what to read. You know what you need to read and what you want to learn. The question is how to consume them. It’s about your learning approach. Not knowing how to (best) consume content is like being given a long spoon in an “eat-all-you-want” buffet (img source):

AllegoryoftheLongSpoons

Years ago, when I wanted to read more and faster, I was drawn into speed-reading. Turned out it’s mostly a hoax (for more please watch Do Speed Reading Apps & Techniques Really Work?). Instead of thinking about how to read faster, we can think of how to read. I don’t mean it in the pedantic or even derogatory sense: the way you learn how to read as a child. The how here means a more effective and efficient way to consume content.

My short answer is, unsurprisingly, SuperMemo’s Incremental Reading. SuperMemo is a general reading/learning tool: you can use it to read and learn whatever you want. You don’t need to wait for someone to teach you; you can just use SuperMemo to teach yourself.

Reading about the Zettelkasten Method

The other day I was reading about the Zettelkasten Method. I came across this list of articles about knowledge management. Like a child entering a candy store, I was delighted to have found such a compiled list of articles about the Zettelkasten Method. So I imported a lot of them into SuperMemo. I didn’t have to read them immediately. I chose to read one immediately, then forgot about the rest. The next time I read another article about Zettelkasten was like a week later. I can slowly chip them away, one article at a time. I can re-read the important parts through extracting. I can dismiss one when I encounter duplicate content.

SuperMemo is more than a centralized knowledge management system (like Obsidian or Roam Research). It has an outstanding queue for both reviewing flashcards and reading articles. The knowledge management articles I imported were scheduled for reading by the algorithm. With a review schedule I don’t have to look for them, i.e., intentionally try to read any particular article. When the review time comes it’ll show up in the outstanding queue so I can read them. Without IR on the other hand, it’s a “now-or-never” decision: should I read it now? The fear of missing out can make you uneasy.

It’s easier than ever

Digital learning resources weren’t vastly available until now. Even just a decade ago, ebooks weren’t that widely available. Now the books you want to read are very likely to be available digitally (epub or pdf). SuperMemo is a computer program and your reading material needs to be digitally available. You can just get the ebook and dump it into your SuperMemo collection, or if it’s in pdf you can use SuperMemo Assistant to read it in SuperMemo.

I only write about how to learn

You’ll (probably) never see articles on this site about any one particular topic besides how to learn. I’ll never write about how useful meditation is for increasing your concentration, or the traps of various cognitive biases, or how the new js’s async function could avoid the callback hell. There are far more qualified writers explaining any one particular subject, and to be honest, I have neither the time nor the expertise to write about them. The web doesn’t need another person (me) writing about them, but I think there’s a niche for writing about how to consume them.

Conclusion

To get started with Incremental Reading I recommend the video Starting with SM Going through the IR Manual.

All hail SuperMemo and Incremental Reading.