Time is a limited resource for everyone. In this busier than ever world of technological innovation, you need to keep learning to stay relevant. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Software Engineer trying to stay on top of the newest programming language, or a Product Manager trying to understand new concepts for iterative scale, continuous learning is key.
In Product Management, you often hear that our job is to build the right thing and to build it right. This common saying means that we make the correct tradeoffs between value and time, building the thing that best meets our customers needs in the way that is most helpful to the customer.
Learning should be seen as a similar practice, you want to learn the right thing (I.E. the thing that is most applicable to you at that very moment in your life), and you want to learn the way that is best optimized for your own style.
For me, there are three elements of learning that combine into a perfect trifecta:
Learning the right way is of course learning from the best possible sources of data
At a time when that information is most relevant or can be immediately applied
As fast as sustainably possible
Time is of the essence. You don’t want to spend all of your time learning, you need to use time saved to then implement.
In other words, being efficient with your time is critical to effectively learning.
When you are learning on your own outside of a classroom, there are different methods of delivery that each have their own benefits: reading, listening, and watching.
All three of these have their own strengths, and their own downsides. Most importantly blending all three together with different formats or sources of information can amount to an incredible self paced learning experience.
Most importantly for people who are looking to speed up their pace of learning, all three have free tools out there.
It is important to note when comparing reading, to listening, to watching, that each of these different mediums have a different pace of default consumption. The average adult for example reads between 250 and 300 words per minute. People normally talk at about 150 to 160 words per minute.
Basically what that translates into is that for the average reader, a person would be able to consume double the amount of individual words they could if they were listening to those words be read aloud.
Sometimes you’ll find content you want to read, other times you’ll find cool new videos, and of course you will always find great podcasts. So how can we even the playing field to speed up our pace of information consumption regardless of the learning platform?
Here are three ways I’ve found to speed up how fast I can read, listen, and watch:
Probably the most basic is a speed reader. I’ve thought a lot about trying to master the art of speed reading. I hear there are a ton of courses on getting proficient. I’ve seen videos like this one that details a vloggers journey with speed reading that are amazing!
But, I haven’t dedicated the time to pursue a course.
This speed reading chrome extension called SwiftRead allows you to speed read any browser page.
For someone who doesn’t know much about traditional speed reading, I’ve found this tool really helpful. You can choose a pace in terms of how fast the words pop up, how many words you are shown at once, and the font size. Once you decide on those basic settings, it will tell you how long it will take to read the current content.
While it takes some getting used to, I find this tool very useful. In some ways it gamifies making it through longer articles, challenging myself to see how well I can comprehend things at fast and faster word per minute speeds. Additionally because the words don’t stop moving unless you hit your space bar, the chrome extension serves as almost a forcing factor to focus instead of getting distracted by other things that pop up.
I Love. Podcasts. After getting hooked on podcasts a while back, I went with the default apple podcast app. My podcast life changed however when a friend told me about overcast. Overcast has a few cool features, but my favorite is Smart Speed. It takes natural gaps in conversation when no one is talking and cuts them out. You would think that this small change wouldn’t really do much, but it actually saves a ton of time. The app lets you track how much time you’ve saved just because of this feature, and I’ve personally saved 266 hours of listening time.
For my full writeup on the app, checkout my previous article on how great Overcast is.
The third tool is another chrome extension, this time for videos. I’ve found (especially during 2020) that I’ve been watching a lot more online courses. What I find is that while normally with videos you are limited to the pace at which someone can talk, by speeding videos up; you can consume a much greater amount of information in less time.
I know Youtube has its own built in video speed controller, but I find the Video Speed Controller Chrome Extension incredibly helpful as its controls are always present but not inhibitive. This chrome extension also lets you speed up non YouTube videos.
Speed can be an incredible forcing factor to learn more faster. Assuming you are learning the right things, speeding up the time it takes to consume information can lead you to faster progress and more success! I hope you find these three tools as beneficial as I have!
Curious about a mindset shift that can help you approach learning in a new way? Check out this article I wrote up with my reactions to the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.
About the author:
Ben Staples has over 7 years of Product Management and product marketing eCommerce experience. He is currently employed at Nordstrom as a Senior Product Manager responsible for their product pages on Nordstrom.com. Previously, Ben was a Senior Product Manager for Trunk Club responsible for their iOS and Android apps. Ben started his Product career as a Product Manager for Vistaprint where he was responsible for their cart and checkout experiences. Before leaving Vistaprint, Ben founded the Vistaprint Product Management guild with over 40 members. Learn more at www.Ben-Staples.com
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