In the real world (both work and personal), no one ever has enough time to do everything they’d like to do (and it only gets worse the older you get). In high school AP courses and in college, we already get a taste of that in the form of excess assigned homework reading.
Given that, it is important to develop two key skills: absorbing information and communicating ideas.
Read quickly and effectively
This is the ability to quickly catch the main points. It is how quickly and securely you can download files onto your computer (i.e. your brain). It’s usually not feasible nor particularly useful to remember all the details. All you need are the big ideas, an understanding of how everything fits together, and the reasoning behind it all.
Colleges do provide good practice for this, as not all of the material you are assigned in school is well-written. Often they are wordy, so learn to read quickly to better use your time. Other times, you are being assigned the material because it was written by the professor’s friends in the field (cashing in on those book royalties…sad but true).
Write and speak concisely
This is the ability to be direct with your points and clear with your evidence. It means quickly and accurately uploading files from your computer. Again, no one has time or the patience for a doctoral thesis. Don’t be that guy at the Q&A session of an event who tells his entire life story before finally getting to his question.
Unfortunately schools don’t encourage the development of this skill, especially when they set minimum page requirements on submitted papers. When is it ever better to use more words and time to convey the same exact point?
Anyone in the corporate world knows that if you send someone an email following the classic Five Paragraph Essay structure taught in schools, no one is going to read your message. That’s why there’s this beautiful invention called the executive summary. Get acquainted to it now, as it might be one of the best friends you’ll make in life.
All this goes back to one important, basic idea: spend your time on the things that matter most.