In this ‘information overload’ era, you confront a sizeable quantity of reading material everyday: books, magazines, newspapers, memos, reports, and so forth. You are incessantly pressed for time. Consequently, you probably have a stack of reading material accumulating at a corner of your desk.
Here are four habits to help manage your reading material.
- Preview memos, magazine- and newsletter-articles. Scrutinize the table of contents, and for each article that may seem interesting, scan through section-headings, introductory and concluding paragraphs, illustrations and keywords in boldface or italics. If you ought to read an article, tear-away or photocopy the relevant pages and add them to a ‘To Read’ folder.
- Preview books before buying or borrowing a book. Check reviews on Amazon.com or other websites. Scan the jacket cover, table of contents and chapter headings. After obtaining the book, focus on reading only chapters and sections that are relevant to your interests.
- Discard old reading material. If your reading material expands into a disorganized—and perhaps intimidating—pile, consider discarding the older articles, likely at the bottom of your pile. The content of these articles may no longer be relevant. In addition, you will probably never get to reading them.
- Classify for priority. Assess the importance of every article and organize your reading material into two or three groups. This way, if your reading stack gets unmanageable, you may discard the least-important group.
- Read with purpose. Throughout your reading, ask yourself questions such as “What are the key details discussed here? How are these details relevant? What are the take-away ideas? What can I learn? How can I change?”
- Read the first and last lines of each paragraph to help grasp the premise of the entire paragraph. Check the summary or highlights first.
- Study tables, illustrations, graphics and charts carefully. Characteristically, these visual elements contain comprehensive information that may summarize entire sections of text.
Stay On Top
- Carry your ‘To Read’ folder in your briefcase or bag so you can read while waiting for an appointment with your dentist or at an airport waiting to board your flight.
- Set aside time for reading. Dedicate convenient times for reading activities and add these times to your calendar. Even brief periods of focused reading can be very productive.
In this fast-paced world, reading can be overwhelming. By prioritizing and adopting the above habits, you can make significant improvements to your ability to read more quickly and efficiently.