How to diversify your reading

Paul Armstrong 30 October 2021

Finding yourself in an echo chamber and taking in the same information over and over again? Here's how to shut down the noise and broaden your reading

We learn to read from an early age, but increasingly the misinformation and generally a glut of information harasses us daily. Keeping up with the world—and expanding your mind—takes new skills to give us an accurate view of the world and inspire and spark new ideas.

Here are just a few ways you can increase the breadth of what you read and increase your understanding.

There's no easy way or quick fix; you have to read more, get more from more, and search for different viewpoints. There are, however, some shortcuts and easy wins to make this less time-consuming. 

Curb The Feeds

Let's start with technology. Switching off most things with a feed will immediately benefit you. Best to assume that they'll throw you down rabbit holes any chance they get is a good rule of thumb. Far from being dumb algorithms, the platforms know how to enrage and engage you. The reason for this is not to increase your intelligence and expand your mind; it's to keep you on the platform longer.

There's a reason you've never seen a button on Facebook that says “inspire me” or “give me another side”. It's time we start using platforms again and not allowing them to use us. Instead, consider using Flipboard and Smart News to help you gain breadth and depth when required. 

Make the Information Come to You

Flipboard is great for topics in general, say, technology, and additional elements like technology and business. The easy-to-use app is not just a delight to use, but you can also curate and keep articles you want to refer to later on. Think of it as a magazine in your pocket about everything you like (+28k dedicated topics), or create your own to know what's happening right now. From news sources you've heard of and those you haven't yet), Flipboard also allows you to make your Twitter Lists and feed into a magazine which makes for deeper reading too. 

Another technological way to increase the breadth of what you read is to use or read more aggregators. These curate everything going on and link to everything so you can get a good overview and go deeper when desired. An example of this is Memeorandum, should politics be your thing or Panda if you are a designer. There are big and small ones dotted all over the internet; have a Google and find yours. 

"Once you have found something you want to read, skim it"

Alternatively, if you're a bit more technically minded, check out Feedly, which allows you to only hear from sources you are interested in, thanks to their AI assistant, “Leo”. The difference is simple, you tell them what you want to hear from, or they give you everything, and you click around. Want to get a broader view of politics and news? Check out the AllSides app, which shows you...er...all sides (!) of the argument. Twitter can also help you read more broadly using Twitter Lists. Think of these as filters for your Twitter feed (ie, all the people who talk about handbags). Here's a travel example

Skim first

The other side of gaining breadth isn't technical, more biological. Once you have found something you want to read, skim it. This action feels counterintuitive, but it's psychologically proven to prime the brain to retain more information.

Skimming helps you understand the structure of the information that's coming next. Reading more critically will also help you; according to Dr Linda Elder, President, Foundation for Critical Thinking; "[Readers need to ascertain] what are the key questions embedded in the writing, the information used and the inferences being drawn? [Are you aware of the] assumptions made and the key concepts the author is using?"

Read (for) less

Most readers have poor attention spans; we're only human, after all. Knowing when to read is half the battle; it's a massive waste of time if you cannot concentrate. Avoid dense material for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Focus on chunking up the information and taking breaks to quiz yourself (or write notes) on what you've read. 

Go offline

A locked up laptop at a desk

Go to a magazine stand, pick up five magazines you've never read before and read them cover to cover. Not only does this help the publishing industry, but you'll also increase your sphere of reference. Alternatively, use a service like Stack Magazines, which delivers independent magazines to your door every month. Exposing yourself to new worlds and ideas increases your ability to think analogously. A critical skill when being creative and finding new ways of thinking. 

Reading is a skill that we take for granted. These tips and sources are just the beginning of your journey when it comes to a deeper understanding of the world and the forces that control us. Good luck! 

What's your best tip when it comes to reading? 

Paul Armstrong is CEO of Here/Forth, the emerging technology advisory that created “What Did Amazon Do This Week?” which helps large and small businesses understand where Amazon is going next. 

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