I’m about three-quarters of thew way through Clive Thompson’s Smarter Than You Think, a book about how we work with technology. It is so brilliant I could quite happily blog about things it has got me thinking about for a whole week, if the pesky matters of business and family life were suddenly absent.
The book is really complementary to the work and research I’ve done over the past few years about ideas around digital literacy (it all began with this talk at TEDxBrighton).
One really practical thing I have to share from it is a tool which has been under my nose for years, but I’ve never noticed: Amazon Kindle’s Daily Review feature.
Every time you highlight a passage of a book on your Kindle, it is saved to your profile. Primarily its something I’ve used as a crafty workaround for cutting and pasting passages I want to quote elsewhere (ludicrously you can’t cut and paste from books you have bought in Kindle, you have to copy – you know, like a medieval monk).
Click on the “Daily Review” link at the top of your profile page,however and a miraculous thing happens: you can use your highlighted passages as flashcards to start committing them to your long term memory.
Here’s the official explanation:
Daily Review is a tool to help you review and remember the most significant ideas from your books. It shows you flashcards with either your highlights and notes or the Popular Highlights from one of your books.
Only books that you have marked as “read” are eligible for review, and Daily Review will take you through all of your read books, one per day.
Actually, you can look at highlights from more than one book per day, by clicking on the “Next Book” link.
Amazon uses an the Ebbinghaus curve to work out how many times to expose you to the passage before it gets stuck in your mind. Amazing!:
The periodic review of ideas makes it easier to remember them. This works better if you space the reviews over increasing time intervals, a “Spacing Effect” that was first identified by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. Depending on how many books you have marked as “read”, you will see a particular book again in the Daily Review in roughly 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and thereafter annually. You’re not limited to reviewing only one book per day; at the bottom of the flashcard you can select “Review another book”.
I’ve combined this tool with an insight from the Design Your Day work the Brilliant Noise team did for Nokia. A bad habit for many of is to check our email or social networks the moment we wake up. This is not a good way to start the day: you are putting yourself on the back foot immediately, letting others set the agenda for you, potentially increasing your stress levels before you have even got out of bed. You start the day in an “away state”, basically jolting yourself into conscious with a dose of fight or flight.
A much better habit to grow is to have something interesting to read while you wake up. Well, the Daily Review is perfect – you remind yourself of the best bits of the best books you’ve read over the past few years. I tried this out last week and noticed two big benefits.
First, it put me into a “toward state” – I was being reminded of useful insights, learning and recalling insights triggers this positive state. Instead of being defensive and stressed, your first moments of the day are open, curious, interested, engaged. Second, I enjoyed a moment of brilliant serendipity – about to set off for a workshop on digital literacy I came across the perfect quote from John Hagel’s Power of Pull – something I had completely forgotten since reading the book a couple of years ago.
I’ve made the Daily Review link into an icon on the front page of my devices – it’s also a great alternative to email or social media as something to take a look at when you have a few spare moments.