Reading Process Overhaul: the IRAC method
Earlier today, I posted the following question to twitter:
"Question: the crypto landscape moves at a million miles an hour & I am always drowning in the 30+ tabs open in my browser. I don't mind it, but I am not retaining information as well as I want to. What's a good way to effectively read + retain in the face of information overload?"
I got a ton of responses (THANK YOU to everyone!), and the couple of points that I think will be helpful to me personally are: 1) Take notes; 2) Bookmark + make time to actively go through them, and 3) Focus narrowly. I wanted to write out some of my thought process on how I feel like I should tackle this in the next month-- consider this a month-trial. I will update in 30 days and see if that’s changed anything :)
1. Take notes.
Some of the note-taking habits that people suggested (thanks, Jude!) reminded me of what I learned in law school, which is the “IRAC” method. In the first year of law school, law students are thrown into the strange and unfamiliar universe of reading a ton of legal opinions and cases. For those of you who have tried to make their way through a legal opinion (god bless you), you know that it’s not the most riveting read, and the cases are often very jargon and word-heavy. So, in a lot of first-year legal writing cases, we are taught the ‘IRAC’ method-- Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion-- as a way to condense a long legal opinion into a one/half-pager. I feel like there should be a way to do this with the articles that come across my feed every day-- an IRAC, but for good reads. I think breaking it down intoto the following would make sense:
- The “Issue” (Headline)
I think this really could just be the headline of the article. In legal cases, this is often the big legal question that needs to be answered. With articles, the headlines are fairly self-explanatory.
The “Rule” (Excerpt)
In the legal world, this would obviously refer to a specific law/rule/regulation. Translated, I think this could be a couple of the highlight/excerpts/interesting data points from each article that I find interesting. Simple copy-paste in bullet point form would also make it easier to refer back to in the future for talking points.
- The “Analysis” (Thoughts/Analysis/Reference)
- This should be optional. I don’t want to force myself to write down thoughts/opinions each time, because sometimes it’s easier to just focus on the facts/ text. This could, however, be a section that would allow me to put down whatever I think is relevant-- could be links to other things, or a note to self.
Keep it simple; this is the TLDR of the article.
Example notes for an article I read today:
Tencent Holdings and the Alibaba Group fighting to dominate the ways 770 million internet users...Today, their fiercest fight is over digital money kept on smartphones.
Each has a market capitalization of close to $500 billion, making them among the most highly valued technology firms on the planet.
The latest battleground? Brick-and-mortar stores.
“The whole China internet market is way more competitive than the U.S. market...Everyone is trying to expand their presence in every sector."
By 2027, the total market in China in which Alibaba could be making money will be worth $19 trillion — more than Amazon’s potential market worldwide.
Analysis (Free form thoughts)
- GDPR + shift to privacy means that companies need other ways to make $$ other than just selling customer's data.
- Platforms are competing to add more functionality to keep their users into one place.
- !! Just thought of this awesome article from 2015 that explains the expansiveness of the wechat platform-- good to revisit: https://a16z.com/2015/08/06/wechat-china-mobile-first/
- The battle between tech giants in China is FIERCE w/ a lot of $$ and users on the line-- -- one-stop shops will likely win out here.
So, seems like the IRAC method from law school could potentially serve as a good template for me take notes as I read interesting articles.
2) Bookmark + Make time!!
I often send myself articles to read “later” but never end up doing it. Instead, I am just collecting an ever-growing list of “to reads” and never get around to them because of how overwhelmed I feel when I open the list. It’s the same feeling when you keep telling yourself that you’re going to do laundry *today* but then time comes and you dig out that free and very oversized t-shirt you got from some college campus event years ago and decide that’ll do for now-- and then when you really *need* to do laundry (because at this point you’ve even run out of swimsuits) it becomes such a draining task. Similarly, an ever-growing list of bookmarks is a procrastinator’s nightmare. If I can stop obsessing over the need to keep that list growing and just focus on reading what I want to read for the day, that would probably help.
3) Focus narrowly.
The reason I feel overwhelmed is that I want to know “everything”-- which is a) not sustainable; b) makes me lose focus; and c) results in a barrage of messy links and directions that leaves me feeling less productive.
Identifying my interest on a high-level: policy + regulation, startups + VC, tech + finance , Asia. I’m going to try and focus on the four areas in the next month and see where I come out from there. (Thank you Jill!) This still may be too broad, but I think with time I can narrow this down more.
Here are some of the resources that people have suggested to me in the twitter thread:
Onenote, Evernote, or Notepad (have an account so when you transfer devices you don’t lose the links);
Good old excel to track your progress;
Creating categories within your bookmarks.
Last but not least (and this is more to myself): it is okay to miss an article here and there! I am terrible with this, because I feel so much FOMO from not being *in the know*. And that is the reason why I always end up with the 30+ tabs open in one browser window. While it is generally not a bad thing to want to be informed and want to learn, that becomes counterproductive when it starts to overwhelm me. The fact of the matter is, there is a ton of noise out there. in order to better filter those out, I need to learn to trust my instincts and learn to live with not needing to know all the "breaking news" that comes out every 5 minutes.
So, if this process doesn’t end up becoming a whole mess, I would 100% open up my notes and share it with you all if that might be helpful- let me know if that's something you would like to take a look at. As always, feedback + advice is welcome and appreciated!