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Writing, Blogging and Learning

Whenever I read something, (tech, people skills, neuroscience, whatever), I usually learn something. There is a quick moment where I decide if what I learned is worthy of long term retention or not. When the answer is yes, the odds of actual retention start out fairly low.

When it’s obvious to me that the information is valuable and worth incorporating into my working pool of knowledge, I’ve come across a few tactics to help do so. They basically fall into the general stages of “write”, “teach”, “do”. Writing tends to be the easier, but teaching and doing are more potent.

The act of writing stuff down makes a huge difference with retention & incorporation into everyday knowledge or behavior (R&I). A loose ranking “writing stuff down” variants with respect to R&I efficacy:

  1. Random location, (loose piece of paper, back of napkin, hand, etc.)
  2. Daily notebook (physical log, like a moleskin or something)
  3. If you are reading a book, the margins of that book.
  4. Digital Notes file/directory/wiki/app/whatever

If you really want to learn something however, you should try to teach it to someone else.

Blogging in particular is a great way to retain information. It kind of bridges “write” & “teach”. When you go through the editing process the act of turning on the language & grammar part of your brain allows you to double check how well you know something.

Most often however, the best way to learning something is to put it in practice.

Read about a trick to get to judge someone’s honesty? Try it out (and even better write about your experience.)

Read about some clever new algorithm? Implement it in your favorite language, make a github repo and write some documentation. You will be more likely to remember and reach for that algorithm when appropriate.

Reading is great, Learning is better, but Incorporation should be the goal.

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