Using reading diary

  1. aReading diary is a tool we typically plan to use but end up not using. I confess I never really used a reading diary. I do use a number of alternative approaches. In this article, I will describe first what the reading diary theoretically should be, and then what can be used instead.

Basic reading diary

The most basic form of reading diary is merely a record of what we read. It is a very simple table with columns: “date”, “book”, “pages read”,”comments”. We write down when we read, what books and articles we read, which pages we actually read that day, and what we learned from the reading. This is a very basic way to keep track of your reading, which is more useful for an outside inspector than for you. How do you adapt the format for your own use? There are several simple hacks.

Speed reading diary

Let us start with the reading speed. If you mention the exact time it took you to read the pages in each session, you can learn about the fluctuation of your reading speed through various books and throughout the day, learn which time is optimal for your reading, and when the reading should be avoided. If you are doing something wrong your reading speed will start dropping, and you may need to take some corrective measures. You can even calculate your current wpm measure.

Then we need to collect our impressions from the book. Typically this is a separate document where we add our impressions per chapter. We can use the words we have chosen to visualize, and then see if we can understand in the hindsight what we read from the visualizations. If there are important facts within our reading, we can add them as flash cards, using a dedicated document or a table. When we draw important questions for further analysis or important understandings from our reading we also write them down, maybe in a different color. It may be important to add to the main table the percentage of comprehension so that we may decide to reread the book later on.

We may reuse the diary to revisit our visualizations, and we may want to write down each time we revisited the visualizations we made.

Research reading

When conducting a research, we focus on the quintessence of what we read: how it is important, different and innovative. Typically we compare what we just read to our body of knowledge and write down how it adds to our knowledge: discoveries, new facts, different research methods, a new perspective on the subject. It is normal so summarize this comparison in a fully drafted text of several paragraphs. It is important to mention where we assumed we could use the books or articles in our bibliography and provide a full citation.

Quite often, we need to research more using the names, keywords and other information available in the article. This additional research may change our understanding, and make us reread the article, or implement its ideas as a hands-on project.

The research results can be added to the reading diary via links or some labels, using letters and numbers.

Reading management

Our personal reading is a serious project and we can use some project management tools. For example, we can identify the goals we want to achieve and what kind of reading allows us to progress towards the goals. Then a book well-read becomes a milestone in the general project management scenario. In this case, it is nice to state the goals for each book we are reading. Quite often the book we originally assigned to fill in some of our needs is not well-suited for the task and we may need to read some very different materials.

Our motivation and recreation is also a worthy task, so we can read a book because it simply makes us feel better. Sometimes it is fun to identify which specific elements in the book influenced ask and look for other sources of the same elements: suspense, romance, insight, imagination.

Social diary

Instead of having a passive reading diary, it is more challenging and exciting to have a social reading diary. This could be as simple as re-posting the articles you like on Reddit feeds or as complex as segmenting the articles by subject and writing dedicated posts in your blog or on your social media. There are several questions we automatically ask ourselves when using the social diary approach. Why is the article important to the people who will read it? Will they enjoy what whey read and send a positive feedback? How can I use my own personal knowledge and viewpoint to improve the article or generate an honest discussion?

My personal routine

Quite often what I personally do is somewhat different from what I would like it to be. As a part of an honest and transparent approach, here is my reading diary routine:

  1. Outline the books and articles I want to read as a part of my weekly schedule and my personal goals.
  2. When I find something interesting, I add it to a google spreadsheet with a tag of why it is interesting and a category of what I want to do with it later.
  3. If I think the article has a good form and some curious information in it, I simply post it in my feed.
  4. The articles I want to write about are grouped in clusters of 4-6 articles and I schedule a blog post subject for a future review as a cluster.
  5. Some rare articles actually teach me something I can use and I open dedicated google spreadsheets where I summarize everything I learn.
  6. Occasionally I schedule some hands-on projects to check what I just learned, or some research projects to learn more about the subject.

I always keep the right links, but never keep the dates, time estimates, and the full bibliography. This is not something you should do, but simply a way to reduce the effort. I do read a lot, and any way I can reduce the workload helps

Hope you can come up with your personal routine and share it with others.

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