Ideas Need Sufficient Baketime

Posted on — | 3 min read

I’ve always been curious about learning new things. I’ve always consumed new information with great enthusiasm. I’d read book after book, blog post after blog post and listen to lot of podcasts and audiobooks. What ended up happening was I’d never really reflect on what I’ve read. So, after some time I’d have no recollection of the contents of any book. I used to be under the impression that the more I read, the more I learn and I was checking books off my list. Then I thought reading should really be about grasping the essence instead of trying to remember the nitty gritty details the author talks about in any book. All of this led to me passively consume information without giving any time for myself to reflect on what I’ve read.

Don’t passively consume information

This is the mistake I made while I used to read a lot of books. When I get a book recommendation via one of the many sources - friends, blogposts, podcasts, goodreads, etc., I’d keep adding them to my to-read list on Goodreads. Then, I’d either get the audiobook or I’d get the Kindle ebook. And, I’d just read them one after another. I’d thoroughly enjoy reading them and while I’m doing that I’d feel like I’m learning something.

What happened later was that, when I’ll be talking to a friend I’d say something like,

My friend: *Talking about their experience with crows being a team and using a diversion tactic to take his fries one day*
Me: “Hey, that reminds me, I read a book called Selfish Gene that explains the altruistic nature of crows. Richard Dawkins says in that book that crows are… um…”.
*Silence*

I just couldn’t explain it, because I retained almost nothing from that book. I kind of sort of know about the altruistic nature of crows, but I just couldn’t succinctly put it across. It infuriated me and I always wondered where I’m going wrong.

I listened to a podcast few months ago where Derek Sivers was interviewed where he said

“Learning doesn’t happen when you read, it happens when you reflect on what you’ve read”.

This quote hit home with me. It made so much sense and I felt I wasted a lot of time just consuming information without really “consuming information”. Whatever I was reading was just useless.

Ideas need baketime

I changed my reading style from reading too much back to back, to reading little with breaks in between. Sometimes I’d read just a couple of pages and reflect on it for a few hours or a few days. The difference is night and day. Now it’s no longer about remembering the little details of whatever I read, but it’s about making connections between the different ideas I have in my mental model.

Where I found this to be most valuable is when I would do something that doesn’t require a lot of thought - like cooking, working out without headphones, cleaning my apartment, going for a run, that’s when I’d relect on whatever information I consumed and make connections. I’ve had several “Aha!” moments where I fit pieces together and develop a much better understanding.

In my opinion, the kind of reading for which you just have to grasp the essence is something that doesn’t require you to understand an idea deeply, make connections and possibly apply it to your life. An example of this would be reading the newspaper. You don’t have to understand deeply what happened in politics the previous day and reflect on them. However, when it comes to reading a book with lot of useful information, it becomes really valuable to understand the fundamentals. Reflecting upon ideas becomes one of the best tools in the box for succeeding in the learning process.