The self-development community is bursting at the seams with content about the benefits of speed reading. I love speed reading and consider myself an above average speed reader BUT believe there are a number of ways that you can improve the efficiency of your reading and maximize learning without increasing the number of words per minute you read.
These don’t get the attention that they deserve so I am going to shine a light on them in this article.
The following advice will help you:
- Get more out of everything you read.
- Learn when to read or pass on content.
- Retain information exponentially longer.
With this approach, you can spend the same amount of time reading, but get much more out of it.
1. Read More to Get More
The "boring" parts of a book may be critical to your understanding of the content as a whole. This is critical to the "pre-read" of the book when you are deciding whether to continue reading a book or not.
You should consider...
- Reading the back of the book. This is where you can make a decision whether or not you should actually invest time reading.
- Reading the table of contents. Note points of value and areas that you may not need.
- Read reviews of the book. See what others have gotten out of the book before you read it.
2. Ask Yourself Questions before You Read
The key to wisdom is this - constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth. - Peter Abelard
You should know what you are trying to get out of a book before you read it. When you know this, you will be more likely to notice the answer when you see it.
Never read a non-fiction book aimlessly. You should have a goal and read with purpose.
Reading is critically important to your growth as an entrepreneur, but you don't have time to waste on worthless content. There is too much valuable information you need for you to read things that do nothing for you or your business.
- Know why you are reading a book and what you are expecting to learn. If you can't identify a way that a book will make you better off, don't read it.
- Keep questions in mind as you read and search for the answers as you go. You should have questions you are looking for answers to when you decide to read something. This will keep you more engaged as you read and will heighten your level of retention.
3. Question the Author
You should always question what you read.
Perform a brief background check of each author you read. Don't merely accept everything that is typed as truth.
Believe it or not, anyone is allowed to write a book these days. Some of the content that is pushed on us is nothing more than the long-form equivalent of clickbait.
- Know what authority the author has on the topic. For example, if an author is writing about investing principles yes they have recently filed for bankruptcy, think twice about investing your time in them.
- Develop your own opinion on each topic. Agree with the author only after you have given thought to the point yourself. You may actually know more than the person writing the book! Find a nice middle ground between trusting what you know to be true and being open minded to what you read and allowing the author to explain why his advice is worth following.
- Be apprehensive and analytical at all times. Do not become complacent and mindless.
4. Know When You Should Stop Reading
There is a fantastic sense of accomplishment that comes from reading a book from cover to cover.
Unfortunately, this isn't always the best use of your time.
If you find yourself a few chapters deep into a book and realize, "Hey, this isn't what I need right now," you should put the book down and switch to something that is more valuable to you at that time.
All (correct) information is valuable to an extent, but that value is relative to the time at which you learn it.
If you learn something that isn't applicable now, you may very likely forget it by the time you need it.
It is ok to "overlearn" if you have the time and want that, but from a pure efficiency standpoint, I recommend focusing on what will help you most immediately first.
- Have performed a good "pre-read" of the book (point #1) and decided if the book is worth your time.
- Know how long it takes you to read and understand the time you have to allocate. This will help you weigh your decision better as to whether to continue reading or not.
- Never become stubborn and committed to a book for the sake of completing it.
On a broad spectrum, the average US adult reads about 250 words per minute. A typical double-spaced page will be about 250 words. Do the math here and calculate how many hours it will take you to read a book and use this when making your decision.
5. Don't Be Afraid to Skip Chapters
You're reading to better yourself, not to show off how many books you've read.
If there is a book that is 300 pages, but 250 of them don't teach you anything you need right now, skip it. This is why you should read the table of contents first and decide what you can skip and what you can't.
Some books are not made for this type of reading, but most are.
- Review the table of contents before you start reading and decide what you will read and what you will skip.
6. Take Notes
There are pros and cons to e-readers and pros and cons to physical books.
For a physical book, I keep two things handy. A yellow highlighter and a Pilot .07 Fine Tip Pen (my favorite). I mark up books like a crazy person. I make notes in the margins and mark the top right or top left corners of pages to draw my attention to important parts when I am flipping through a book once I am done with it.
For an ebook, be sure that your e-reader has the capability to take notes and export them. I export all of my notes to a folder in EverNote.
- For physical books, have a pen, highlighter and/or sticky notes.
- For an ebook, highlight all information you want to recall and save the highlights somewhere like Evernote.
7. Read Your Notes After You Are Done.
That is why you take them. After you have read a book, you should read your highlights again to put it all together. I know this takes more time, but it is efficient because it improves comprehension and long-term retention.
Remember, efficiency doesn't always mean something was done in less time. It just means that you are getting the most value in the least amount of time possible. If you get 2x more value by spending an extra 30 minutes, the value will far outweigh the extra time.
- Never decide you are "finished" reading a book until you have re-read your notes.
- Be sure to take quality notes as you read.
- Avoid backtracking and overanalyzing the content on the first read. You will reference the highlights for this when you are done.
8. Don't Be Afraid to Re-Read a Book
This article is about reading efficiency, so it seems odd that I am telling you to re-read a book right? Well, there is nothing more inefficient than reading a useless book.
The great business books are so full of information that it is impossible to really digest it all during one pass.
All of the books I recommend in my article "A Minimalistic Reading List for Self-Education" are ones I believe are worth reading multiple times.
Also, if you read a book again a year after you read it the first time, information may apply to you now that didn't apply to you before. You are different, you have learned new things and need new answers to questions that have developed since your first read.
If you marked up the book like I mentioned in step 6, you may find some interesting nuggets that you wrote in the margins the first time.
- Notice how much information you feel you may have missed while reading a book. If there is a lot you know was mentioned but can't recall, consider reading it again later on in the year.
9. Put on some headphones and noise
There is a great deal of research proving the effectiveness of certain noise and focus.
I have a pair of Wireless Jabra Headphones that do a great job of masking outside noise even at low volumes.
- Find what combination of sounds and environment are most conducive to your reading.
- Invest in a good pair of headphones.
10. Pause and reflect on each chapter after you read it
Another seemingly counterintuitive practice, but it will improve comprehension drastically.
- Avoid moving on to the next chapters without considering what you just read and how it will relate to the upcoming content.
11. Avoid Re-reading Lines and Missed Words
If missing a section (tuning out mentally) hinders the overall comprehension, you should go back and re-read; but as a general rule of thumb, you should train yourself to avoid backtracking.
Most speed reading books will recommend you read with a "pacer" which can be a notecard or just your pen or pointer finger.
- Consider using a pacer such as a notecard or following the text with your pointer finger or a pen as you read.
- Become mindful of your backtracking.
- Remember to come back to areas you may have overlooked, but avoid re-reading as you go.
12. Read Content Other Than Books
Yes, I said ditch books in an article about reading.
Occasionally, swap a traditional book for some great blog content. Use an RSS reader like Feedly.com
- Subscribe to the RSS feeds of blogs in your niche.
- Save articles for later as you need them. You can use a tool like InstaPaper, Pocket or Evernote for this.
These methods will increase the value of every minute you spend reading.
Whatever you do, keep reading. Reading needs to be a part of your business, just like billing your clients, it is that important.
Effectiveness + Speed = Maximum Learning and Efficiency
If you are looking to find a high caliber but cost effective program, check out 7 Speed Reading.
How about you? Do you have any other tips for reading more effectively? Comment below if you do!
For the record, this article is regarding non-fiction content. Do whatever you want with fiction books.