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How to be Better Informed While Reading Less

21 March 2018

Earlier this month, Quartz Media published an article focusing on futurist Richard Watson. Mr. Watson teaches London business students and Silicon Valley tech companies how to approach building tools for tomorrow. He may teach the future of technology, but he doesn’t even use Twitter!

Mr. Watson doesn’t follow conventional reading patterns to stay informed. He’s much more interested in the long-term future than staying “up-to-the-minute” on current events.

Instead of scanning daily headlines, emails, the internet, and social media Mr. Watson has created a “smart information filter,” to capture more knowledge while freeing himself from a constant stream of data which has little lasting impact.

1. Practice Selective Ignorance

You cannot possibly know, or read about, everything. Accept this, and choose your reading materials carefully. Choose quality over quantity.

2. Burst the Bubble

Look at random books and magazines – ones you’ve never heard of – and see what they offer. Strike up conversations with strangers. You will find at least some of these individuals and publications can provide you with insights that you ordinarily would not come up with on your own.

3. Find the “Tall Poppies”

Gather a network of people whose vigorous and curious minds can can give you new perspectives. Such remarkable people are sometimes called “tall poppies;” Mr. Watson believes that collecting a good bouquet of these human blossoms can drive success.

4. Hit the Road

Mr. Watson urges travel, but suggests taking the road less traveled; recommending that we resist our human impulse to “follow the herd.”

5. Find Sources You Trust

Find, and follow, reliable publications and journalists, focused on thoughtful analysis rather than the latest sensation or scandal. Try reading weekend editions of selected newspapers.

6. Chill Out

Relax. Don’t fuss over making sure you have the most up-to-the-minute news. Important news will find you.

7. Carve Out Designated Reading Time

Schedule time – weekly, monthly, every quarter, whatever works for you – to read. Whether it is a book, journals, or other source, read without distractions. (Bill Gates schedules an annual forest retreat.) Read studiously, quietly, and fuel your mind to drive dynamic thinking in your daily life.

8. Embrace Silence

Be curious – and listen deeply. Often you will learn more by listening than by talking. Find quiet places to think and reflect.

9. Get Off Social Media

Social media is good at providing us with lots of what everyone is talking about. “Trending” is the thing. Mr. Watson cautions us against trends, and suggests watching, instead, for counter-trends.

10. Go Dark

Every night, and one full day each week, shut off your computer, your cell phone, your tablet. Engage in conversation with family and friends, watch a fine film, read a thought-provoking book.

In a nutshell, Mr. Watson suggests we will do best when we strike out on an informed path for ourselves, rather than hurrying to get where everyone else is going.

We’d love to know your thoughts. Click here to email me directly.

Until next Wednesday –



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