Tsundoku is Japanese for "acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them". According to the writer Mori Senzo, the phrase 'tsundoku sensei' first appears in text from 1879, and is likely used in the satirical sense, about a teacher who has acquired a lot of books but doesn't actually read them. While this might sound like tsundoku is being used as an insult, the word doesn't carry any stigma in Japan.

It is possible that our physiology may be at fault here:

One problem, I think, is that collecting feels like learning. Each time we discover a new productivity toy, internet article or bestselling book, our brain sends us a jolt of dopamine (our brain’s “reward” hormone) for doing nothing at all.

Ahh, says our brain, a job well done.


The Internet has made is too easy to find interesting content to consume from a learning perspective. Especially for those of us who are interested in continually learning and improving, resources on the Internet can actually be a distraction. I realize the irony that this newsletter likely also falls into the same category, and is likely distracting you from some other task.

I can't help it - learning opportunities today are infinite. Every day, I come across articles, blog posts, podcasts, research notes that I bookmark for later reading. Friends and co-workers send over interesting articles via Messenger or WhatsApp. Every Slack #reading channel is another source of learning content.

I've come to realize that bookmarking or "save for reading later" isn't helping my own development. The incremental dopamine hits are nice, but I'm not really progressing. My Pocket inbox looks like this (these articles are all unread):

There has to be a better way to learn continually.

I'm curious about your workflow - what have you found that works?