Learn asynchronously: 13 effective ways for better studying and reading more

I want to explore ways of reading more and how to learn more effectively for 2 reasons:

  1. Getting better at my own learning
  2. Better supporting other people with their learning

A couple of weeks ago I explored learning asynchronously in Weeknotes: Designing better lives by mining the multiverse 🖌️. Now, I have more thoughts and some experiments to try.

A thought bubble with a question leads to a shining star, which leads back to the bubble

Some of my learning challenges

Reading non-fiction

I find it a struggle to do reading for pure fun, even though I love it, so reading for work is even more of a challenge.

I used to read everything voraciously. When I had depression, that stopped. I’ve been practising getting back into reading, and one of the ways I’ve done that has been only reading stuff I’m really excited to read. Even then, sometimes it’s hard. I don’t understand why it’s often a struggle to read when I enjoy reading so much. It’s frustrating.

Consistency, sometimes this shows up as trouble getting started

Most often it’s difficulty in building regular and frequent habits. For example, I want to study each day for the courses I’m participating in. It takes a lot of energy for me to be occasionally successful with this. I’m more likely to have many days not doing any studying, with occasional days doing loads of studying. Whereas I know that little and often I would get more done and remember more of what I learn.

Finishing stuff

When I do get started with reading something, or doing an online course, it’s so hard for me to finish it. If there’s a regular live element, such as weekly video calls for teaching or discussion, then I’ll finish the course (even if I skip bits along the way). But if it’s all self-driven, it’s so hard for me to finish; especially with long courses.

Most of these challenges will be familiar to folks with ADHD.

What helps: 5 ways for better studying

These are some of the things I already to do to help myself:

  1. Get expansive and exploratory: Consider and try many different formats for learning materials and for integrating notes etc.
  2. Identify what helps me learn, what I enjoy, what I persist with in a fun way
  3. Identify what trips me up, what’s a barrier
  4. Being kind to myself + Being realistic: I put these together because often they go together for me.
    • For example, giving myself an unrealistic goal (unkind) and then telling myself off when I don’t meet it (doubly unkind!).
    • Instead, I’m practising setting smaller goals for myself (as suggested in both Tiny Habits and Atomic Habits:
    • Set goals that are super small & easy, setting myself up for success with small wins.
  5. Celebrating my achievements: I struggle with this, but when I do it, I feel good, which reinforces the desired behaviours I’m practising.

Ideas for ways to get expansive & exploratory

Use different formats for learning materials

Such as:

  • Videos, such as TED talks
  • Audio, such as podcasts
  • Watch/Listen to authors talk about their books, in particular
  • Games
  • Articles (you can use Pocket to have a robotic voice read them to you)
  • Social media, you can explore hashtags on twitter to find conversations and/or learn about other formats, such as conferences
  • Online communities
    • Meetup, Eventbrite, conferences etc for real-time sessions
    • Forums for connecting asynchronously
  • Books, of course

Practise different formats for integrating notes etc.

Such as:

  • Drawing, on paper or digitally; I use both, including Procreate app, iPad & Apple Pencil
  • Voice notes, to yourself or others; I use Otter
  • Telling friends about what you’re learning, I usually do this with messages and voice notes, but also on the phone and on video calls
  • Mind maps; I use a tablet and paper (love to use massive A3 plain paper)
  • Written notes; I use both Google Docs & paper (I use the bullet journalling index system for loosely keeping track of what’s where)

How can I read more?

I’ve been talking about this with some friends. Books aren’t the only way to learn effectively, of course, but there are specific books I do want to read. Thankfully, my friends were able to help with lots of ideas. So, here’s a compilation of some things I’ve been thinking about, alongside some of their practices.

8 things to try for reading more

  • Get an ADHD coach
  • Dip: Embrace interleaving: Dip in and out of many books in quick succession, switching to process or compare/contrast ideas
    • I already do this with courses, which enables a lot of synthesising and integrating learning that would otherwise not be possible. I wrote about that in More is less: How to do twice as much with half the effort /more-is-less-how-to-do-twice-as-much-with-half-the-effort/.
    • For example, I’m currently studying Amplify by Steve Palina on creative flow, Earnable by Ramit Sethi on entrepreneurship & business, and Octalysis Prime by Yu-kai Chou on gamification
  • Dive: Schedule time and be intentional about the formats I’m using.
  • Be conscious of my strategy: Am I dipping or diving?
    • One of my friends spoke about dipping, then diving. But I think I do the opposite.
    • When I encounter an idea I’m curious about, I want to hear a lot from that person about it, and quickly!
    • And then, if I think, ‘Cool, this sounds interesting, I trust them on this, I want to know more’; then I want to dip into it alongside other things I’m dipping into.
    • It sounds funny: Like having a bite of pizza for the first time, then trying many different kinds of pizza in quick succession, and using that to determine whether to go to the next stage of occasionally eating pizza… 😂
    • But, it makes a lot of sense in the context of hyperfocus and loving novelty…!
  • Return to things I’ve watched, heard or read before. Use the power of repetition
    • I do this with courses, as well as with the videos I value the most. So, all that remains is to extend that practice out to other formats
  • Make visual notes whilst reading for better understanding & remembering
  • Read in a non-linear fashion: Pick the chapter that sounds most interesting and skip there.
  • Let go of the feeling that I ought to finish books. Trust that I’ll get value from reading them regardless

What I want to learn next

  • Plants! Continue working on – playing with! – my tree families mapping. So far this has mostly been digital, interested to explore this on paper and in other forms too
  • Brene Brown on courage, shame, vulnerability
  • Barbara Sher on asking for help and peer support
  • Michael Hyatt’s books, especially Win at Work and Succeed at Life

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