There is constantly so much to take in. Books spilling out of my shelves calling to be read, or reread. And I bring home more from the library each time I visit. Every day, new podcasts enter my feed and a newspaper arrives in our mailbox. Most days, an email notifies me about someone’s new blog post. After a moment on Facebook, I’ll have passed by four articles my friends have shared. Some link takes me to YouTube where they suggest interesting videos for me to check out next. My mother sends me a New York Times article.
This content all ranges from boring to thought-provoking, carefully written to hastily typed, well-researched to entirely made up. Not only is it nearly impossible to tell what’s worth reading and what isn’t, it’s practically as difficult to figure out where to stop. Where to say, I have read enough for today. I realized more and more that I consume and consume and consume, and hardly ever do I turn the lens on myself. Hardly ever do I say, “what do I think about this?” I certainly talk about things I read with others, and that for me is a great way to make sense of it, but I forgot to look inside myself. It’s hard to do that in a conversation, and it’s hard to have a very interesting conversation if you haven’t figured things out for yourself at least a little. So I wanted to make a list, for myself among others, of ways I can remind myself to turn inward, write about my perspectives and share (perhaps only with the paper) what gets me thinking.
- Take notes. Keep a notebook with you when you’re reading an article/watching video/talking to someone/etc. and take notes. I pull pieces out that intrigue me (or disgust me): quotes, statistics, mannerism, anything. Once finished, read through what you’ve written. Notice any patterns? Still, have questions or things you wish had been discussed? Whatever your reflection is, write it out. It could just be a few bullet points or a paragraph. Don’t worry about complete sentences. Write whatever it makes you want to write.
- Keep a notebook on hand in general. It isn’t always that you’re consuming other people’s thoughts so consciously (this sounds a little zombie-like, but I totally don’t mean it that way). I see signs, overhear conversations, and notice changes in my environment that make me think. If I have a notebook with me, I’ll often immediately take it out and start to write what I’m thinking about. Then, I’ll go back later and look through what I’ve written. Sometimes it turns into a blog post or an interesting conversation, and sometimes it just helps me understand myself and the world better.
- Write something yourself before you consume. Let’s say you’ve got an article up on your browser called Project-Based Learning in Colombia (as I do now). Try writing a response to this article before you even read it. When I first thought about doing that with this article, I was fairly stumped (I quite frankly began thinking it was a stupid suggestion). I don’t know anything about project-based learning in Colombia. That’s why I was going to read the article. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there were some things I could write. Because I know quite a lot about project-based learning. I know some about implementing it in different places. I know a fair bit about Colombia. I’ve read an article from the site it comes from before, so I had a general sense of how they go about things. I ended up writing a fairly lengthy paragraph and it certainly increased my enjoyment of the article. A lot of it was, “Wow, I hadn’t thought of that.” If I hadn’t written down what I did know, I wouldn’t have had any real way to say, “I’m glad I read that because it brought up things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own,” which for me is really the point for me of reading/watching/listening nearly everything I consume.
These are just a few thoughts to get you started. There is so much more to get into on this topic and I’m super interested in hearing other suggestions people have. Let me know in the comments!