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How can we learn from reading more efficiently?

Everyday I look at my bookshelf and see the 10+ books I have begun to read and am still immensely fascinated in. Within a month, I probably purchase 4-6 books on average. It's overwhelming! There is so much that I am interested in, that sometimes I can't help but feel defeated.

My question to the brilliant TED community is...

How can I read more efficiently?

This primarily involves getting through more books with higher levels of comprehension. How can I get through everything I want to read without completely neglecting the people in my life? The more I read, the more I want to read about. It's a vicious cycle.

Topics: Reading education

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  • Dec 16 2012: Hi Trey,

    I have finally found a kindred spirit! I am in the same boat. I cannot finish the books I have started before I have acquired more. I also struggle with comprehension and retention of what I have read. In my 50 years I have not yet found much of an answer to this unique problem that we share. Most folks laugh when I describe it, but it says to me that they really do not understand what it is like. Like you (and my father and my son) my interests are widespread, and new interests are added all the time: things to do and/or knowledge to gain. And, it is not an ego trip to be a know-it-all, but a pure interest in the vast experiences and knowledge available. I don't care if anyone knows that I may or may not know something.

    I have tried the standard speed reading. As an experiment, I would go back and re-read something the next day, and would discover I missed the majority of what I sped over. I just got my hands on Mortimer Adler's book (mentioned below), and will be working on that.

    Time management helps but is NOT our main problem, as I have been through several time management programs and techniques and was never able to fit everything in. I plan for family time, breaks, exercise, work, etc. Fitting things into a 24 hour period was impossible, so I experimented with several-day cycles and weekly cycles. This worked a bit better, and I felt more structured and satisfied. I need to improve it and fit it into my chaotic work cycles (I travel for work on very short notice. Short bursts of time at home between projects) (No, changing jobs is NOT an option: I have looked into it several times: skills, local pay scales, opportunities, etc)

    But, even with structure, comprehension and retention are still a problem for me. There just in not time for in-depth study of everything we want to learn.

    At my age, I think I have to start cutting things out which is not easy. There isn't time for everything. I have not helped you, but I share your pain.

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