Summarize to Maximize: The Learning Hack You Should Use More Often, Now Enhanced By Artificial Intelligence

What do Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffet have in common? Yes, money in the bank. Lots of it. But that’s not all. They also share a big love for reading, and credit much of their outstanding success to the powerful habit of engaging with the written word.

It’s no secret that reading has remarkable benefits. From fighting anxiety to preventing cognitive decline — enjoying a book goes way beyond pleasure. But a growing research in the field of Learning Science indicates that you can learn more by summarizing a text than by reading it in its entirety. And thanks to new AI technology, both processes are now made easier.

This is good news. Over the last decade, we transitioned from the era of Big Data to the era of Big Content — a term coined by Craig Roth to describe the massive volume of online content created by users, often in the form of short captions, posts, and tweets.

In this day and age, it’s become harder than ever to carve out the time to read and focus. Our attention span has shrunk significantly, the number of distractions has skyrocketed, and average text length has dwindled to a few hundred characters. It is no surprise then, that only 37% of American High-School seniors are considered “proficient” at reading.

It is hard to devote time to reading, especially for learning purposes. Our busy, fast-paced daily routines make it almost impossible to prioritize it. Some might dismiss it as an excuse, while others may find it relatable. Either way, there is a shortcut now.

Summarization as a learning technique can give you back your power. By summarizing, we get the same tremendous value we do from reading, with some extra benefits specific to learning, such as personalizing the experience, producing an outcome, and increasing brain activity.

In the past, in order to summarize a text you had to first read it in full, then add your notes and integrate them into a cohesive summary. But today, new AI-driven technology can do some of the work for you and save you precious time.

A machine-generated summary can cut out about 80% of the input within seconds. Some may argue that every word is important, but we all know that’s not true. Plus, reading through an entire article and weeding out key ideas is tedious work. Granted, it’s helpful for increasing comprehension, but you can get the same results faster, minus the cognitive burden and frustration.

When you are given the most important 20%, you have a much more solid basis to work off of. Sometimes, that by itself will be enough and provide you with what you were looking for; Just because you didn’t go hunting for a key idea on your own, doesn’t mean you can’t learn it just as well.

This is a game-changer. If your job involves a lot of reading or if you’re looking to venture into new fields, it will keep you laser-focused. As an analyst, for example, you might find yourself reading through hundreds of reports and articles in a single week, wasting hours scanning for the most relevant data. That’s time that could go towards linking ideas, spotting trends, and working on your presentation. Same goes for marketing managers, lawyers, accountants, and even content creators like myself.

The reason summarization is such a useful learning strategy has to do with how we learn. While there are innumerable approaches to teaching, researchers agree that we acquire knowledge when we increase connectivity in our brain. We create more associations, link ideas together, and strengthen neural pathways.

When we summarize an article, we do just that. We synthesize it to fit our thinking style, hone our focus, and improve our understanding. But as we all know, it’s hard work.

That being the case, an AI-generated summary can kick you off to a great start and enhance your learning. The notes are brief yet more elaborate and detailed than an abstract. It gives you a nuanced understanding of the content before you even read the first paragraph. You can then skim the article more efficiently and add other parts you find to be relevant. Finally, by collaborating with others on the summary, you gain more perspective and save each other time.

When you combine an active learning approach with an AI-powered automation, you win the best of both worlds.

What little time we have for personal growth is valuable to us, so we want to make sure we use it wisely and make the most of it. Luckily, technology is catching up fast and allows us to continue to learn despite the many distractions around us.

Try running this article through AI and see for yourself.