Worth Reading Next week

The internet is a vast web of data and information.  We can connect with friends and catch up with family – or sate that desire to see pictures of your favorite celebrities’ sushi. Right now people are forging new friendships on forums hosted around the world. We can wind down after a long work day by connecting online with conventional media. Or we can log-on to sites like YouTube and Vimeo, artistic outlets for the creative mind. 

While I love using the internet to unwind  after a stressful day, connect with friends or lurk celebrities, like most everyone else, I also like learning about new things; information I would not have had access to twenty years ago. And the internet has been created in such a way that learning is virtually inevitable; however, in doing so, it has also drastically changed our definition of ‘learning’.

The thing that creates the problem is the thing that’s most beautiful about the internet; the enormous quantity of information. I know if I click on one interesting article, it will lead me to a related article, and so on and so forth. Until I’m in a veritable tornado of factual, quantifiable, often useless, information.

I usually bookmark the cool, interesting stuff for later, and leave the rest to the cyberspace janitors.

Only I have things saved from 2009 in my browser about the Polio Virus. Leaving me wondering ‘where did later go, and what do I do when I catch up with it’?

Here’s the idea:

Gather and save a small number of interesting educational web pages or articles in a folder titled ‘worth reading this week’. The following week you read them all – a few every day. When you’re finished reading, you have to delete the page from your web browser. By the end of the week you must complete the entire folder of articles. There is one rule: no bookmarking outside of the ‘reading next week’ folder. If you confront a page you find interesting, but don’t have the time to read it (or desire), you must exit, or save it in next weeks folder; no bookmarking for ‘later’.

 This eliminates:

  • junky, long lists of bookmarked articles you’ll never read.
  • complacency, apathy and procrastination
    • I don’t ‘need’ to read this right now; I have all the time in the world (procrastination’s fuel).

It creates:

  • External memory:.
    • Acts as memory recall
      • like a weekly alarm (I often forget to learn; and setting rigid schedules that take up most of your free time never work)
    • Motivates learning
    • connectivity
  • A system of organization
    • Condensed and accessible; scannability.
  • Refined time-management skills, and (hopefully) self-control and regulation; initiative.

How it works:

  • Cut off range depends on:
    • how much free time you have per day
    • how motivated you are
    • how diverse your interests are
  • Daily averages
    • trim the fat
    • only a few articles a day
      • small goals
  • You must delete the articles after you’ve read them.
    • No bookmarking non-essential information anymore (except for within the folder)

Procrastination requires awareness of some object  in the present moment. You can’t procrastinate for the future. Procrastination occurs when you’re presented with a choice, and you choose to delay exerting effort to another, often predetermined time. You choose to engage in less-urgent, but more pleasurable actions, putting off the more urgent, but less pleasant ones. But the beauty and the insidiousness of procrastination is that when you’re again confronted with that choice, chances are you will behave the same way. You haven’t changed; like a drug addict promising ‘this will be the last hit’. You’re still going to want to stave anxiety and do things which are easy, and often enjoyable – that’s a part of human nature. Unless you’re at the very cliff of some great cost, and not doing that thing you’re avoiding will result in some great loss, you won’t break your bad habits. You’ll continue to procrastinate indefinitely. It becomes muscle memory, like punching a dolphin. And before long its your standard operating procedure.

This is the big problem regarding self-education; one remedied ideally by conquest of the human will, but in practice only by introducing cost.  You can send yourself a million reminder emails, and bribe as many friends and family members to pester you into submission as possible, but unless there is some personal cost, procrastination will win – what can I say, we’re flawed. We have to use our flaws to our advantage, not our detriment.

Bookmarking everything of interest is a behavior for the chronic procrastinator akin to an newly sober alcoholic hanging out at bars every night with friends. If you exercise will, and consistency, you will see improvements in a very short period of time. The more you exercise self-control, the easier it becomes. Hopefully one day you only bookmark, or ‘save for later’, in times when you are truly too busy – not just too lazy.

The rule of thumb here is: don’t create for yourself the problem you’re trying to fix. Don’t bookmark hundreds of articles; that defeats the purpose. You have to actively filter out which ones you think you would want to read more about later, and which are worth passing up; taking into consideration that the more you save, the more difficult each article will be to find.That each week you must finish the entire folder, not just ‘some of it’.  By not allowing yourself to bookmark everything interesting you see, you force yourself to accept responsibility and commitment at the expense of guilt, feelings of failure and the loss of knowledge.

I love learning and studying, but I’ve developed so many bad habits that I find  I like the idea of studying much more than actually learning itself – to a point where the amount of time I spend studying is down to like an hour or two a week. And that’s a bad thing, because studying is a skill which requires dedication, responsibility, commitment, pain and displeasure; it’s a penchant few are born with and most must work for.

While studying is often a long, arduous and sometimes seemingly futile endeavor, it’s probably the most rewarding and long-lasting source of self-assurance and satisfaction in life. Anything after which employed ensures learning takes place is worth sharing and worth practicing.

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