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The Barbell Method of Reading

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  • ”Storage is cheap" is no argument but a mere statement. :smile:

    I am a Zettler

  • I've read the article and can't understand few things related to carefull read.

    Case: I read book carefully (by reading carefully I mean - read->understand->create notes->create "trigger" memory cards in Anki - all of this require a lot of time).
    Result: I get most of easy information, get most of information that is deeper, spend a lot of time

    The method described in article explains how to save time in the case by skipping the information that is not usefull (if I don't understand information, I need to understand it first).
    And here's I have a question - I read information, I understand (or also spend time to understand) that the information is useless, who continues to invest time on things that he/she knows are useless? If so, could the article can be "summarised" to two points: 1) Ask yourself "Do I need it? How will I use it?" 2) Skip it, if answers are "No" or "I don't know"?

    Could you explain me where I'm wrong? I have "feeling" that I miss something ... may be "speed" or reading, how many time I read sth, or how careful I read ... I'm really interested in reducing time I spend to a book.

  • edited April 2020

    @sfast enjoyed the article. You allude to it a little bit here but have you written about how to go about choosing texts to read in the first place? Besides the obvious advice you seen thrown around such as "follow your interest".

  • @maestro wrote:
    I'm really interested in reducing time I spend to a book.

    Then this method is not for you. You reduce the time spend on the fluff of the book but increase the time you spend on the very useful and insightful parts. In sum, it increases the time spent on each book most of the time because you spend quite some time doing careful and intensive thinking on some part of the book.

    @Nick wrote:
    You allude to it a little bit here but have you written about how to go about choosing texts to read in the first place? Besides the obvious advice you seen thrown around such as "follow your interest".

    I have some material. It will come, but do not know when. My choosing method is mainly about time.

    For example: Classics are time-tested. Therefore, the mere fact that something was written 2000 years ago and still produces insights and practical implications is a great plus. Imagine an author who you really respect and tested is writing an extensive book about a generalisation that is based on many classics. (like a unification theory of Nietzsche, Kant, neurological classics etc.)

    Instead of just one text being tested for 2000 years, know we have a text that contains hundred thousand years worth of time-testing. In addition, he would use the approach of E.O. Wilson Concilience of Knowledge which is another testing and filtering method.

    If you add up that time that went into some text you can base your work on millions of years instead just on your life time.

    Easy example: If you read a autobibliography you get decades of distilled insights by one person. At least on the level of knowledge (actually acting on it is another story) you can gain in a week what took a life-time for another (successful) person. And almost any successful person is very open about his/her methods to reach success. There are many gems out there. Or: Many decades of lived life experience to be gobbled down in days and weeks.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited June 2020

    The content of the article is solid as always, thank you. I just reread it as it was linked to elsewhere.

    I have to agree with @maxhodges and @vvcorto that using the "barbell method" to define this process is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I was thrown when I initially read the article and coming back to it over a year later, I'm still thrown by it. Two better descriptions are reading fast and slow, or Adler's "superficial reading" and "analytical reading".

    Using the "barbell method" as the analogy here confuses the reader because the reader has to agree to a shaky premise: that reading slowly is a riskier investment of time than reading quickly.

    That's a premise I don't agree with and I think it's easier to actually argue the opposite: reading quickly is the riskier investment of time because it leads to less ROI.

    I get it, I loved "Antifragile" and earmarked it to death. That concept and the Lindy Effect and disfluency and a host of other jewels have influenced my thinking, and I love alluding to the book. But this use of the barbell method is a stretch, and I would encourage reflection on its usage to describe what is otherwise a rich and giving article.

    Of course these are just semantics and opinions.

  • Using the "barbell method" as the analogy here confuses the reader because the reader has to agree to a shaky premise: that reading slowly is a riskier investment of time than reading quickly.

    It is not shaky but purely in the spirit of risk assessment. You lower your exposure to the higher chance of low-return activities. That means not investing so much time. And you invest more time in higher change of return activities (pre-filtered text by a person you (should) trust).

    reading quickly is the riskier investment of time because it leads to less ROI.

    This can be tested but should be tested with unknown books taken randomly from amazon.

    If you read quickly (but do not skip) you will gather more thoughts per time because you will be exposed to much more foreign thinking. And, of course, miss some thoughts worth gathering.

    Academic reading is even more hardcore than then because it means reading very selective, sometimes only a few paragraphs per book.

    The reason is the exact reason why I came up with the Barbell Method. Additionally, my professors adressed fear of missing out directly. To be more productive, they said, is to ignore most of the books. Most books are not worth much time.

    The Barbell Method makes sense in the context of the Zettelkasten because a Zettel is written because of its potential value that preserved. If you don't have a Zettelkasten even the Barbell Method would be way less selective and way to high in risk.

    I am a Zettler

  • Thanks for the article! Looks helpful.

    The only thing that I don't understand is what you do with the third type of text:

    "3. Not useful but difficult to understand. You actually don’t want to process these parts but you don’t know if they are useful. Sharpen your mental theeth with them and then ignore them after you found out that they are not useful."

    It sounds like some time needs to be spent on them before you discover they are not useful. Do you just mark these as difficult in the first read and come back and process them later, or do you do you 'sharpen your mental teeth with them' in the first read and then leave them unmarked?

    Also, I think type 4, below that, should be 'easy to understand', right?

    Thanks!

  • @Brettelectric said:

    Also, I think type 4, below that, should be 'easy to understand', right?

    No, "Not useful and difficult to understand" means everything that is not useful combined with everything that is difficult. "Not useful but difficult to understand" means everything that is not useful excluding everything that is difficult.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • @Brettelectric said:
    Thanks for the article! Looks helpful.

    The only thing that I don't understand is what you do with the third type of text:

    "3. Not useful but difficult to understand. You actually don’t want to process these parts but you don’t know if they are useful. Sharpen your mental theeth with them and then ignore them after you found out that they are not useful."

    It sounds like some time needs to be spent on them before you discover they are not useful. Do you just mark these as difficult in the first read and come back and process them later, or do you do you 'sharpen your mental teeth with them' in the first read and then leave them unmarked?

    I mark them during the first read with a "?". A book can be only understood from the perspective of the whole. So, I don't want to slow down my first read. The first read is preparation, the second read (+processing) is where you flex your mental muscles.

    Also, I think type 4, below that, should be 'easy to understand', right?

    Oh, yes. Good call.

    I am a Zettler

  • Thanks, that makes sense!

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