Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Incremental Reading Principle: Priority

(This is in response to a question asked in the comments section of the previous post)

I had been using Incremental Reading on-and-off over the past few years, but only recently do I think I have hit my stride when it comes to Incremental Reading. I am having fun reading more than a dozen recreational books, articles from various journals (Time, New Yorker, etc.), long blog posts, articles on TV Tropes (It's the only way I can read that site), reviews of movies, video games, etc. Obviously different texts receive different treatment. A fluff blog entry isn't analysed to the degree a book on string theory is.

Here is a rough way I mentally classify articles/books/etc. that I read:

HIGH PRIORITY (Methodical)
-Read every 1-5 days
-Create flashcards as soon as I extract noteworthy information
-Do not advance the article until I understand every piece of  information
-When I encounter difficult parts, endeavor to understand them ASAP

-Read every 10-30 days
-Extract topics, make flashcards out of them whenever I get to it
-Skip difficult parts that require further study

-Read a paragraph or two every 50-150 days
-Extract topics, but I don't really care about them unless I'm getting rid of old topics that clutter my database

So when reading a high priority article, I will methodically break down every paragraph and sentence that contains something noteworthy, creating flashcards as soon as I think I can create one adequately. If I find a piece of information that I do not understand but understanding it is necessary for progressing through the article, I put the article on "pause" (Delay it for a few days) while I endeavor to understand that piece of information, doing the same steps as mentioned above. Once I am done, I resume reading the original article.

When reading a medium priority article, I will casually read it and freely jump around from one section to another as I see fit. I don't really care about deeply knowing every thought contained. If, in order to understand the article, I must first consult a different source to grasp a concept alluded to in the article, I may or may not confront that gap of knowledge. If I choose to, I do so "when I get around to it."

When reading a low priority article, I am almost completely passive about the information I'm reading. Aside from a few interesting things that the article might potentially contain, I don't care very much whether the article lives or dies. It might be delayed for many months or years (Or deleted), and it doesn't take up any "mental RAM."

Some articles might start out as a 'medium priority' article, but as I read it I realize that it has very valuable information contained within, and it goes to 'high priority' for a few days. After I extract the most useful bits of knowledge from the article (If I do not delete it), it might go back to 'medium' or even 'low priority' for a few months until I put it out of its misery.

As you can see, how you incrementally read articles changes as your priorities change. What you consider valuable one month might not seem so valuable later. Although I never explicitly say to myself "This article is 'high priority' now," my thirst for the knowledge contained in the article compels me to gobble more and more of it, while an article that doesn't excite my knowledge apatite are delayed (and eventually discarded if they don't prove their worth).

As the SuperMemo web site says, Incremental Reading is more of a reading management technique than anything else. And while it has taken me a while to get used to it, it is one of the most compelling features of SuperMemo. Once you hit your stride, you can quite comfortably read hundreds or thousands of articles at the same time, although I didn't think that it was possible at first.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Littlefish. Thank you for sharing you tips etc. on SM and now on IR. I myself and in the process of trying to understand IR and your post really help!!
    Thanks again, regards Henrik