We Listen At 125 Words Per Minute

Listening is difficult because most of us are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful about 75% of the time. There are a lot of useful and useless things begging for attention throughout the day. It doesn’t help that the science behind how we absorb information is against us as well. Trust me, I’m no exception.

My insatiable curiosity for life naturally positions me for mass consumption. Hundreds of books that I’ve read leave me with a jumbled thoughts that tend to come out during strange times. “How can anyone possibly know that,” my friends remark after I come up with useless factoids about the world. One of my favorite things to blurt out is, “according to an article I read last week!”

In order to connect better with others and stimulate my creativity, I’m on a journey to improve my listening skills. We listen at 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute. As you can imagine this causes a breakdown for those of us trying to get things done or hear a story. Immediately after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50% of what he or she said. Long term, we only remember 20% of what we hear.

Those are pretty depressing statistics if you ask me. What about those of us who are listening to our podcasts and audiobooks on 3x speed? Are we doomed to retain less than twenty percent of those, too?

By implementing The Rule of Three in my information archiving system in Trello and note applications, I am able to record actionable nuggets from dialogue. Whether it be a conversation with a peer, TED talk or audio book there’s a few simple takeaways that help me to get the most out of invested time. Amplify your curiosity as a learner by focusing on three major points to clarify with your conversation partner or record in your journal.