Have you seen Death Note? It is a brilliant Japanese Anime series that I am watching these days. One of the characters, L, has a habit of sitting on his haunches. This, he says, increases his deductive reasoning capacity by 40%. I don’t know how true this statement is but this was the position I was sitting in while reading an article on controlling our attention by Mark Manson. If you haven’t read his blog yet, you should. I had included it in my simplified reading list and I don’t ever regret doing so.
A combination of his thought provoking article, and the feeling of over-consumption that I've been struggling with lately, led me to a chain of thoughts which culminated into this post. While reading an article online we have a habit of jumping from one to another, sharing and commenting without even reading through the whole thing and in general, rushing on to finish it off the checklist. I figured, there has to be a better way instead. So, without further adieu, here is the 10 step ‘guide’ to mindful online reading. Perhaps, try out these techniques with this post and let me know if it was useful.
- Keep your laptop away from you, preferably slightly more than one arm distance that you have to stretch a little bit to touch the keyboard. Our fingers have a habit of being finicky and they keep bouncing around clicking here and there and in general making a nuisance of themselves.
- Finish reading what you have on the screen and once you’ve done that, move on to the next scroll. Don't keep scrolling after every few lines (unless you have a problem viewing what's written at the bottom of a page). The constant flickering of the screen causes a major distraction.
- Keep your phone at a distance.
- Keep open a notebook/pen, an Evernote window or anything else you use to record your thoughts. You don't have to record anything though, no pressure.
- While reading, feel free to take breaks - not to check a new message or notification but to think through what you’ve just read or simply just to take a deep breath.
- Your mind will wander off every once in a while - to that conversation you had with someone in office, or that thing you have to do tomorrow. Gently bring it back to present.
- After finishing, take a few moments to think through the message and if it resonates with you or not.
- Share your opinions and the article with a friend - not on Facebook or Twitter, although you can do that as well. But, share it in person, or over a phone call or in a private message. Have a thoughtful discussion around it.
- DON’T jump on to the next article right away. Do something else, walk about a little bit aimlessly.
- Respond to the author with your thoughts about it. Hearing from their readers is one of those things which writers cherish a lot. And some of the best connections start with a single email.
The purpose behind this step by step guide is to ensure that your really immerse yourself in what you are reading. I acknowledge that this borders on the line of being too painful to go through for everything your read online. But, every once in a while, for a really good article you find, try following some, if not all of these steps.
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