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How to read less


Jurgis
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OK, so we've had a number of threads on how to read more (500 pages per day! 1000 pages per day!). And we have a number of great suggestions every day on what to read - both online and offline (books).

 

So I have a question: how do I read less?

 

Ideas, thoughts, suggestions on how to read less and how to balance on things that are attractive-but-possibly-not-useful (infoporn) vs. possibly-boring-but-maybe-more-useful?

 

Some random thoughts:

 

Like mentioned in Soros thread, I can go on Bloomberg news and spend 2+ hours a day just reading articles there. There's a lot of stuff and it's interesting. Possibly infoporn though.

 

Articles/newsletters/blogs linked in CoBF tend to just accumulate. I probably have over 50 if not 100 articles that look interesting, but haven't had time to read. This includes things like Columbia Business School Graham & Doddsville newsletter, blog posts, etc.

 

Compilations are bad shizz. I'm thankful for whoever collects everything-Munger or everything-Buffett or whatever, but these are books and ... no time to get through them.

 

Videos are really bad - or at least it seems so. You get something like 5 hour Liberty meeting or even 1 hour talks/interviews/lectures and it eats the time like heck.

 

And we haven't gotten to the 10Ks/10Qs yet.  :'( These are possibly less of an issue, since they mostly are less reading-candy and you can focus on the companies you invest into and skip others mostly.

 

And we haven't gotten to the books yet.  :'( Stuck on Jobs' biography for 6+ months because of lack of time. Read through most of Howard Marks' book only because of the trip to Fairfax Toronto - 4+ hours in airports/planes - and the rest of the book is going to be finished who-knows-when.

 

 

I guess the answer is to schedule, prioritize and aggressively cut. But how? Sometimes you read something that you think is not going to be useful - and it is - and vice versa. Pushing things into a semi-priority-based queue might work somewhat, but then it doesn't when your queue is hundreds of items long.

 

I was elected to lead not to read.

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You need to set aside time everyday for just reading. Like two hours a day and then prioritize it by gathering a list of reading materials and organize it and figure out which is worth tackling and if you do that everyday you can get through a lot of material and some point you will naturally get rid of the materials you don't want to read.

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I started to write a blog post about this a few months ago, but since everyone has so much to read it probably wouldn't get read...:)

 

Here are my thoughts on this.  I used to read a LOT, but now I do a lot and read much less.  I find doing is better than reading, reading just puts off doing.

 

I'm a sap for Bloomberg News, Google News, linkfests, anything curated with good content.  I'll find myself wasting a day or sometimes a week just reading stuff that feels good in the moment, but is rarely actionable later.

 

I gave up the news almost two years ago, went cold turkey.  Gave up looking at stock quotes, gave up a ton of 'good' sites as well.  They sucked up my time.  Now I only go searching for information that answers a question.  Instead of mindlessly reading the business news I go the other way.  I find an interesting investment idea then read news about it, or news that would pertain to it.  I will search for relevant articles, most aren't current, but I find reading old news gives a good perspective on issues.

 

Sometimes people post about current things on Twitter, I'll casually look at an article or two, but then I limit myself.

 

In a way I think news/infoporn etc is really almost an addiction.  I would read and read and feel like I should read more before doing something.  As if reading everything written could solve my problem before I tried to tackle it.  I've learned that instead there is a base level of knowledge you need to learn to function, and beyond that you only need to know items relevant to what you're working on.  If this endless reading is viewed as an addiction it can be treated as such.  If I had a problem with booze I wouldn't go into a bar, likewise I don't navigate to news sites.  I know if I go to Bloomberg News I'll just start to endlessly read.

 

I've heard the analogy that modern news is like junk food.  You always want more and it's never filling.  We're just filling our brains with cheetos and popcorn and thinking it's great because it tastes so good.

 

This view is complete heresy here.  I know everyone else has blocked out their day to sit in an armchair and read.  That's all well and good.  Those hours you're reading I'm building something, or talking on the phone (information that's HIGHLY valuable and doesn't exist online), or selling, or writing (for others to read!).  Reading is fun, but I view it as leisure.  I am reading How Google Works at night.  I just finished Peter Jenkins' A Walk Across America.  I don't watch TV, I'll read a book, or do something around the house instead.  But like I said, I'm weird.  I find "real" work (building things, home improvement, auto repair) therapeutic after doing a knowledge job all day.

 

There was a point in my life I probably read 3-4 hours a day, then spent more time following the news etc.  I accomplished much less than and I was also unhealthy.  Maybe I associate heavy reading with lots of sitting and weight gain, I don't know.

 

This doesn't work for everyone.  But this is just the experience of a natural reader or shall I say a former reading addict.  I love to read, have always loved it, but I let it grow out of control.  I've since reigned it in and life is better.

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Time allocation of learning has shifted since 2014 for me.  Before 2014 it was 85 percentish reading and then some form of audio/video content.  I got into podcasts in 2014 and more video content as well. So i'm consuming about 30ish percent reading now vs podcasts/youtube/and whatever else.  That said, the pendulum might shift.  Depending on novelty and quality of content and how i retain and use critical thinking to distill it down to the models i gather.

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Time allocation of learning has shifted since 2014 for me.  Before 2014 it was 85 percentish reading and then some form of audio/video content.  I got into podcasts in 2014 and more video content as well. So i'm consuming about 30ish percent reading now vs podcasts/youtube/and whatever else.  That said, the pendulum might shift.  Depending on novelty and quality of content and how i retain and use critical thinking to distill it down to the models i gather.

 

This is a good point, as a content producer I've noticed a shift as well.  People want more voice/video.  If I'm taking a road trip (has to be alone, wife has no tolerance for this) I will download a lot of podcasts and just listen.  Sometimes it's akin to listening to sports talk radio, a lot of talk about nothing.  But other times I'm on the edge of my seat, entertained and learning.  You take the good with the bad, but it's a nice format.

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Thanks oddball. Mostly agree. :)

 

audio/video is much worse for me than reading. Seems to take much more time and most of the time I try to multitask, so I don't get much. Audio also seems like much lower bandwidth - i.e. you can get through the interview/presentation/Q&A in less than half time by reading transcript than it takes to listen. Also for non-native English speaker like me, listening is much more effort and I still may miss some things. Also I don't listen while driving - well, I don't drive too much and I prefer silence when I do :).

 

and some point you will naturally get rid of the materials you don't want to read.

 

The issue is that I do want to read them. Like oddball says, it's like junk food. Maybe not addiction, but something similar. Can't throw away old Economists, can't go away from Bloomberg - lots of interesting stuff.

I'll have to figure out some way to ration. ;)

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Agree a lot with what oddballstocks is saying.

 

One additional way to reduce reading time is to defer the reading material. Say you have a bunch of videos or audio that you want to listen to, just bookmark them, put them in a playlist if on youtube. If you wait a few months, it is amazing how much of that material seems less useful.

 

Same way with newspapers or magazines, dont read when you get them. Read a couple of weeks WSJ in one shot. You end up reading only material that is useful long term.

 

Vinod

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I very much like the question being asked here. From personal experience, some medium will work better for some people, and not so well for others. To one of my colleagues, podcasts are clearly worthwhile, fit well with his habit of walking everywhere, but are of no use to me as I seem to have zero patience for them.

 

One thing I would add to what's already been posted is to do a curation of your source of content by some criteria you deem useful (could be quality, actionability, fun, ...)

 

If I find that a news source (blog/site/paper/etc.) has been disappointing (click-bait articles and such), I'll stop visiting (businessinsider would be an example of something that was a no-brainer to drop for me), and I'll "promote" other sources, especially sources that are already curating content relevant to my interest (CoBF, daringfireball would be positive examples in my case). I think it's useful to reflect on the quality of the time spent reading, and adjust accordingly.

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One additional way to reduce reading time is to defer the reading material. Say you have a bunch of videos or audio that you want to listen to, just bookmark them, put them in a playlist if on youtube. If you wait a few months, it is amazing how much of that material seems less useful.

 

Doesn't work for me - I have tons of links and journals from couple years ago. Still seem interesting. Sometimes even more than when they were current.

 

I think his point is that if you enforce a two hour rule, you will naturally prioritize your reading. And you'll get a better read of your true preferences amongst information sources.

 

Fair point. Maybe. Hasn't worked in the areas where I do have limited time allocated - I still don't necessarily choose the "true preferences". But perhaps gotta try. :)

 

 

Possible aside (?) :

It's fricking tough to be a renaissance person in current age. Concentration is rewarded so much. I'm sure I'd have much better standing in various areas I participate in (work/investing/leisure activities A/B/C) if I concentrated on 1-2 instead of spreading out on 5-8. At some point you try to accept this as a fact with all the consequences. But sometimes it still hurts. :)

 

Edit: hmm yeah, about 1000 movies in Netflix queue; about 1000 books unread; 50+ computer games that would be fun to play; and that's just the couch-potato side of things. Gotta clone myself asap. Immortality might help, but not a lot.  ;D

 

 

 

Edit 2: The suggestions are great. Thanks for all posts here. :)

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Interesting topic.

 

Pretty much everything I read online I collect through feedly. Blog posts, sec filings and I use www.changedetection.com to watch websites without an RSS feed (also incoming in feedly) A couple of times per day / week / month you can skim through all the new posts. Most of them I discard in a few seconds, the interesting ones you can bookmark (or mark unread) to read at a time of your convenience. I follow a select group of people on Twitter and SeekingAlpha and unfollow them quickly if they post too much nonsense. I also follow a select group of microcap stocks on SeekingAlpha and Yahoo finance. That way you can immediately see if there's news for your portfolio. Don't do that with large caps though - you'll be flooded with crap. On CoBF I mostly skim the headlines in the 'investment section'. I also put people on my ignore-list quite liberally.

 

I think my key advice would be to skim over everything you have collected for 5 seconds and then decide: "do I really want to read this?". And if your answer is no repeatedly just block the source. That could mean a specific stock / topic (SHLD, VRX, religion), website (forbes, businessinsider, facebook), or poster (no comment). That's why I love feedly - it fits this approach very well.

 

However, the above is mostly theory :). In practice a working internet connection pretty much turns me (everyone?) into a brain fried instant-gratification monkey with the attention span of a goldfish. It actually scares me sometimes. I can certainly see the appeal of a 'pulling-the-plug' approach if you want to get some work done (maybe just for a few hours a day) but so far I can't bring myself to do it.

 

I think that's what this topic is actually about: not "how do I read less?" but "how do I waste less time on internet?". Reading a book in your garden is utterly incomparable to browsing the web. Is there anyone here who actually thinks he/she reads too much books?

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Listened to an interview with Sam Zell, he says a lot of his success has been due to being a voracious reader. Same with others.

 

Maybe there are individual tendencies where some learn better through voice/video, however you can't listen to everything via podcast. Personally, the benefit I find with reading for business purposes is repeated observation of information and the ability to discern tendencies from that information.

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Guest longinvestor

Interesting topic.

 

Pretty much everything I read online I collect through feedly. Blog posts, sec filings and I use www.changedetection.com to watch websites without an RSS feed (also incoming in feedly) A couple of times per day / week / month you can skim through all the new posts. Most of them I discard in a few seconds, the interesting ones you can bookmark (or mark unread) to read at a time of your convenience. I follow a select group of people on Twitter and SeekingAlpha and unfollow them quickly if they post too much nonsense. I also follow a select group of microcap stocks on SeekingAlpha and Yahoo finance. That way you can immediately see if there's news for your portfolio. Don't do that with large caps though - you'll be flooded with crap. On CoBF I mostly skim the headlines in the 'investment section'. I also put people on my ignore-list quite liberally.

 

I think my key advice would be to skim over everything you have collected for 5 seconds and then decide: "do I really want to read this?". And if your answer is no repeatedly just block the source. That could mean a specific stock / topic (SHLD, VRX, religion), website (forbes, businessinsider, facebook), or poster (no comment). That's why I love feedly - it fits this approach very well.

 

However, the above is mostly theory :). In practice a working internet connection pretty much turns me (everyone?) into a brain fried instant-gratification monkey with the attention span of a goldfish. It actually scares me sometimes. I can certainly see the appeal of a 'pulling-the-plug' approach if you want to get some work done (maybe just for a few hours a day) but so far I can't bring myself to do it.

 

I think that's what this topic is actually about: not "how do I read less?" but "how do I waste less time on internet?". Reading a book in your garden is utterly incomparable to browsing the web. Is there anyone here who actually thinks he/she reads too much books?

Well said! Especially about the internet frying the brains. Just read the posts of posters who answer just about any and all topics on CoBF. You'll find that their fingers type faster than their brain thinks. Sooner rather than later, someone else takes their ego on and a yelling match ensues, all within a day, often an hour. If there's a place where the masters of the universe hang out, here it is.

 

Yes, pulling the plug on internet browsing is a thought that has come to my mind. It's absolutely the right thing to do. Very little incremental learning relative to reading a book or the BRK letters.

 

 

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For Youtube I now use 1.5x speed.  Saves a bunch of time.  Also works on audiobooks.

 

I liked Oddball's comments a lot.  I also try to minimize news reading.  I do like long in depth business articles which have unique research and insight which is more rare now.  Fortune is great.

 

I have been trying to restrict my reading to A or A+ type stuff.    I get more out of it than a B rated book generally.

 

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I love reading.  I'm of the opinion that it matters less what you read, but the fact that you DO read and ABSORB everything you read.

 

I'm not going to shoot somebody down for reading infoporn, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, blogs, online, hardcopy, whatever...just read. 

 

In fact, I think people who read everything have a pretty good idea of what the world around them looks like.  And for those that like to read only very narrow-subject material, all the power to them, because they are specializing in a niche of great interest to them.

 

I read all sorts of material:

 

- I don't know how many legal documents, filings, press releases, invoices, etc go across my desk in a month. 

- I read two-three newspapers a day. 

- I read about two books a month.

- I read flyers, pamphlets, junkmail, everything.

- I read online

- I read offline

- I read blogs

- I read magazines

- And of course, I read 10-K's, 10-Q's, presentations, business plans, powerpoints and everything else I can get my hands on related to investing.

 

I don't want to read less...I want to read more and more!  Cheers!   

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If you invest in a good audiobook subscription, you will be amazed at how much you can read during the crevasses throughout the day (shower, driving, brushing, right before bedtime  etc.) It's like compounding - 15 minutes here and there throughout the day adds up tremendously.

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