Writing doesn’t help you think better. Reflection does.

Many people celebrate the idea that writing makes you a better thinker. That’s only half the story, though. You can journal as much as you want, but if you don’t revisit those writings, all you have is a log of events and brain dumps from your past self.

A wise manager once said to me that we don’t learn from our experiences; we learn from reflecting on our experiences.

One way to think about reflection is like entering into a conversation with your past self, revisiting situations and thoughts, and allowing space to re-contemplate with the benefit of hindsight. What are the things you would have told your past self to attain better outcomes?

We can apply similar lessons to content consumption.

Capturing notes via highlighting or snipping applications is good, but don’t be fooled into believing that you’re assimilating the information. At best, you’re likely regurgitating what others have said rather than integrating the lessons into your personal experience.

If, however, you write in your own words what you thought the key points in the content piece were, you’ll likely have better retention and understanding. You can’t fool yourself with “Elon Musk said this in a podcast”.

Don’t make it a miserable endeavour, sucking the life out of your reading or viewing. Instead, think of it as a forcing mechanism to engage more consciously with the material and to help you filter your inputs.

Thinking is non-linear. Build in the time to revisit your notes rather than constantly adding to the top of the pile.