We are bombarded with an exceptional amount of new information every day and more likely, every second, with the advent of modern technology. One can literally check the news on a phone in the bathroom! Sometimes I turn off the computer only to feel totally overwhelmed; I read too many articles, tips, tricks, thoughts, and opinions and now I don’t know what to do with any of them so they are left aimlessly bouncing around my brain (and more often than not taking in this information actually kept me from reading something more meaningful or taking care of myself, my family or my home the way I desire).
As for relevant example, I went to bed last night feeling incredibly anxious. My heart was beating too fast and my mind was whirling…but I had NO idea why?!
Then it hit me.
There is currently major political strife in Madison and everyone has something to say about it. Every status update on Facebook is an opinion from one side or the other and there are threads of debating comments a mile long. I had read too much for too long with no apparent “answer” or sense of peace; these feelings manifested and became physically apparent.
There is so much information we are able to take in, but how much is too much and what is worth our time? That is something each person needs to access for herself, but the following are three questions I ask before, during, and after I am reading:
1. ) What do I intend to get out of it?
As I begin reading every book, I decide on my intended outcome. Another way to phrase this might be, “What is the personal benefit in reading this particular book or article?” That might sound like a selfish question but with almost 800 books published every day in the United States (which is close to 292,000 books every year), I have every right to be protective of my time. It is my one truly unrenewable resource and I cannot afford to make worthless investments.
Therefore, I have absolutely no problem with not finishing a book and feel no guilt in pushing it aside. If it is not worth my time, energy and retention, I move on something that is!
2.) Why am I reading this?
To learn about a given topic? Simply to have fun? Because it was recommended? For a club?
Knowing why I am reading something often puts the book in perspective and allows me to determine how I will approach it.
For example, if I am reading a book for theological purposes, more likely than not, I will read a chapter every day or every couple of days. There is usually quite a bit to chew and reading too much at one time does a disservice to the book and my intellect. On the other hand, if I am reading a fictional book for book club, I will tackle it and read as much as I can in one sitting. A novel is most enjoyable that way, with time to dive in and get lost for a while.
3.) Did I grow as a person from this piece of literature?
(There are many additional questions to ask in order to discern whether or not something is a “good” book or “worth” reading; I plan to continue writing on those, but will gloss over them here.)
My favorite way to critique a book, blog article, etc. is based entirely on my personal experience with it. “Did I grow as a person from this piece of literature?” can most simply be answered by how I felt when I read it.
Did I deeply feel any emotion?
Did I gain a deeper perspective on a different culture or way of life?
Did the information make me more intelligent or well educated on a subject?
Do I better understand someone else’s life circumstances?
Was I motivated towards change?
Despite our access to it, we have a limited amount of time to gather information and an even more limited amount of time to leisurely read things of our choosing for our personal growth or pleasure. Simply processing these three questions throughout the process can make it more efficient, beneficial and enjoyable!