Evaluating and optimising my time while learning

I’m someone who enjoys gathering as much information as possible on a topic, as I enjoy the context. Practically, this often translates to picking up a new podcast (for example) and starting right at the beginning (even if there are hundreds of episodes). I feel this helps to provide context for where the podcast began, how it has evolved, and the knowledge and experiences gained along the way.

In chatting with a colleague a few months ago at a company meetup, he described to me how he reads books; reads the start, the end, and then decides whether or not to read the middle. I may be putting my own spin on this, as it’s from memory, yet the gist is simple; if it’s not offering what is needed/expected, he stops reading and moves to the next book. The takeaways and emphasis here are optimising use of one’s time, being super clear about the desired information/learnings right out of the gate, and regularly evaluating whether or not the material offers this.

Naturally, I was intrigued by this. This notion completely appeals to my logical side, while also negating the need for context and history. Could I break my personal pattern? Could I actually stop reading a book if I found it didn’t offer what I expected up front?

My inclination is to push through, in the hopes of some nuggets of information as I progress through the reading. Looking back on it, a large part of this actually has to do with the book choice at the very beginning. Had I chosen a book which is world renowned as one of the must-read books in a particular field, it’s no doubt I’d push through. Exploring the times where I’ve struggled with this, I’ve found it’s been in books with a catchy title, yet few recommendations by my network.

As someone who thrives on consistency, context, and patterns, breaking this cycle will be tricky for me. In the interests of optimising where and how I spend my time, I’m willing to break this cycle, and find a pattern for evaluating the value I’m receiving from whatever book/blog/youtube channel/tv show I’m consuming at the time.

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