comment by hyporational ·
2013-09-15T08:59:22.385Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I read at home, a small one room apartment. The most crucial thing about the setting for me is light. I have several bright lights that I have timed to turn on at about 4 am. I wake up to them, no need for stressful alarm clocks. I also try to keep things clean, because clutter is a major distraction.
I wake up at 4 am, I eat and wash quickly, then study till I have to leave for work or university. I usually start by reviewing my anki cards. Studying in the morning is almost effortless for me, studying in the evening is a major pain. I have a tendency to feel depressed and fatigued after 4 pm.
Deciding what to read next
I use a program called ToDoList. I usually start a project based on what my university studies require, then divide it into subtopics(projects) and prioritize them (on a scale from 1-10) and estimate how much time each topic takes to learn and how much time I should use on them based on the priorities. The priorities are based on how much I think I will need the knowledge for my work.
I also gather a list of sources and usually start from the least effortful material e.g. lecture powerpoints and basic articles and then move to textbooks and more indepth articles if feel the need to do so. After the plan is ready, I can fully concentrate on studying the topics from most to least important. Knowing that I do things in the correct order takes out the stressful thoughts of not having the time to study everything.
The program allows me to do all this and also record how much time things take so I can adjust my estimates accordingly. Recording the time you actually work also helps to keep honest to yourself: for example the time you spend at the library isn't necessarily a good proxy for estimating how much you actually study.
I have no system for reading nonfiction that doesn't involve my profession, but plan to have one in the future.
Do you write notes by hand, on a computer?
Always on a computer. Typing is always faster than writing, and I have a tendency to lose physical notes. Also my penmanship sucks unless I go extra slow.
For ankifying knowledge directly, I try to follow the 20 rules of formulating knowledge by the developer of supermemo, the guy who developed the algorithm also used in Anki. For heavily interconnected/conceptual knowledge I use Freeplane, a mindmapping software, before I try to ankify it.
Spaced repetition is indispensable for effective learning, I use Anki. I also use various mnemonic systems: mnemonic major, peg system, acronyms, acrostics etc.
Do you wear noise-canceling headphones?
Yes. They are very useful if I happen to study in public. For studying I usually listen to ambient electronic music or loops of pleasant noises. Acoustic and vocal music are very distracting for me, perhaps because of my musical background.
Do you skim texts?
I skim to filter out topics that I have already learned or are too complicated to be practically useful. Skimming is also useful if I search for a particular bit of info.
Do you reread texts?
I reread segments as I'm trying to process them, otherwise almost never. If I have to reread, I think I've done something wrong in the first place.
How often do you reread “foundational” texts, or texts that shifted your paradigm?
I don't reread full texts, unless I want to re-experience the pleasure of discovery or brilliant writing, and even that is very rare.
How often do you decide not to finish a book?
I usually don't read full texts, as there is significant overlap and unnecessary filler in them, so I'd say 90 % of the time. I probably finish about 20 % of the fiction I read.