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What is Something Useful You can Learn in 10 minutes that Would be Useful for the Rest of Your Life?

What is Something Useful You can Learn in 10 minutes that Would be Useful for the Rest of Your Life?

Here’s a great answer we found on Quora by Raj Rai who provides some valuable tips on learning something that would be useful for the rest of your life.

How to speed-read. Following along with your finger is excellent if you want to read a little faster, but speed-reading is a different ball game.

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Brief background: I learned how to speed-read after some googling. I did this search because I had AP Bio and AP Econ summer reading due in about 12 hours, I hadn’t even begun, and I did not want to spend 12 hours reading. I tried to find the page, and I’ll add it in as an edit if I can find it. I learned to speed read because of my own laziness, but on a bad day I read at least 5 or 6 times as fast as I used to.

Let’s start with basics.

Most people read word by word, and often say the words to themselves using the voices in their heads. Why do we do this? I fully blame kindergarten reading programs, which force children to read out loud both in class and at home. Who thought of this? Anyway, that is not at all the most effective way to read, in terms of both speed and comprehension. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is eliminate the voice inside your head. This took me at least 1 hour to do.

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Read with your eyes. ONLY.

Whatever you do don’t use the voice inside your head. As you learn to do this part go ahead and read word by word and go over the lines with your finger. Just work on eliminating the voice. Why? You cannot say words nearly as fast as you can comprehend them, believe it or not. Don’t limit your reading speed to your speaking speed. This process really sucks, by the way. If you really believe that the voice in your mind is your enemy, you will probably be extremely frustrated for the first half hour of your journey. You may get better, then get a snack, then come back to continue your training and realize you are back where you started. Feelings of hopelessness will arise. Be a man/woman, and push on.

A tip for those who are having trouble not subvocalizing is to hold your breath as you read. As Sean O’Connor pointed out, we breathe out as we read, even when we do so silently, since we’re used to speaking the words aloud. A lot of the time, you even notice yourself making movements with your mouth, though it’s closed. Hold your breath as you begin trying to eliminate subvocalization. Breathe in when you need to. (Don’t force discomfort or anything) Once you feel that you’ve effectively eliminated that voice, try to return to normal breathing. Remember to use breath-holding as a crutch whenever you are having trouble. It has no noticeable effect on your speed or comprehension, and it helps immensely when you are having a rough time.

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Once you are able to pretty much eliminate the voice inside your head, you have unlocked a huge amount of potential in terms of how fast you can now read. Since you’re reading with your eyes, try reading two or three words at a time, and then move up once you get comfortable. Trust me, if you don’t skip the voice elimination step, you will make progress fast. After a couple days I was reading pages out of an assigned novel within 15-20 seconds, the book was The Guide, and with full comprehension. I am not exaggerating. This is when I got really in the zone of course. Not having the initial tunnel vision can be frustrating but after about 10 minutes you get it down and you fly through pages. I was reading about a line at a time. One tip I have that helped me read more words at a time is to think about opening your eyes REALLY WIDE. Actively try to take in as many words at a time as you can and try to move along the lines as fast as you can while doing this. You’ll build your own rhythm eventually.

Hopefully this helps someone. It really helped me. I was able to finish estimated hour-long reading assignments in 10 minutes or less. I’m out practice right now, but I want to get back into it this summer so I can complete the books listed on the answer wiki for Books: What are some potentially life-changing books?

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P.S. Here’s a link (thanks Mike Stenhouse) that teaches you a lot of about speed-reading technique. The explanation it gives encompasses a lot of what I’ve said, and I found it pretty useful in cleaning up how I read and in increasing my reading ability generally: Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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