September 2, 2008
Back in June I mentioned a new piece of software I was trying out. It’s turned out to be something I use every day; in fact I realize now that I’ve been subliminally looking for it for years. I hesitate to recommend it outright, it would depend a lot on your own style and needs.
What it has done for me is allow me to contain and corral all general-interest reading such as magazines. I like relaxing with a good article about something that’s truly interesting, but it needs to be on my terms; I hate that feeling of getting stuck in a magazine, or spending more time than I wanted, reading online. With SuperMemo, anything really cool that I stumble across gets clipped, saved, and then seems to crop up magically at just the right time. There’s never any feeling of being hurried, it’s like the “magazine pile” is all under the surface, out of view, and clutter-free. If I see a sentence, paragraph, or quote that “rings” for me, I absentmindedly highlight it with my pen, and it comes back around as a snippet later when I least expect it. The end result is a feeling that my reading material has doubled in quality. It’s all stuff I’ve chosen personally, with the highest priority or highest interestingness always coming up to the surface.
I recently saw this great quote by Albert Einstein: “Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” I’ve always believed that. Yet it isn’t good to disconnect altogether. It’s like nutrition — with reading, as with food, calorie restriction is good, nutrient density is good. Sounds un-fun, but for me it’s not, it means that the little bit of reading I DO do is totally on target for me and my interests, and so it totally pulls me along. SuperMemo has made this mindlessly easy.
There are still two kinds of reading which don’t get swept into the SuperMemo bin — actual books (which I also limit), and research focused toward a goal (self-limiting). For everything else, there’s SuperMemo.