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As the Saying Goes: “Leaders are Readers”

By Dr. Geri Markel On Want to Read Faster—and Better? Practice with a newspaper or magazine.

Although the flow of information seems overwhelming and requires faster and better reading, many in the work world don’t read much. At the most basic level, wouldn’t it be great to read more efficiently and get through email, reports, and updates more quickly?

Practice helps us keep a skill going, but in today’s society, people are reading less than ever. There are a variety of reasons for not reading. Many say they have no time, are too tired, or that reading is too difficult. Others report they can’t concentrate or read fast enough.

Common Barriers to Reading

Some of the most common barriers include fatigue, poor concentration, and/or material that is highly technical and difficult.  The good news is that some simple solutions can be mastered with patience and some practice.  For example:

Fatigue: you can reduce fatigue by shutting off the phone or television 30 to 60 minutes earlier and getting a more reasonable amount of sleep.  This provides additional mental energy and motivation to read.

Poor Concentration: Perhaps you attempt to read when you are under stress. Try taking 15 to 20 minutes of quiet time in a pleasant setting. Take some deep breaths and stretch before you sit down to read. Lowering stress, even for a few minutes, allows you to better focus on the task at hand.

Technical or Difficult Material: Regardless of how smart, many people still read as if they are in elementary school; word-by-word. A key way to comprehend difficult material is to learn to survey and adjust your reading rate depending on what your purpose is for knowing the material and based on the level of difficulty of the material.   If you read all material in the same way (i.e., start at the beginning and plow through to the end) it’s time to learn how to vary your methods and speed accordingly.

Reading Skill Building

There are advanced strategies that help readers process information quickly and efficiently. It is easier than you think to ramp up skills. To begin, try using newspaper or magazine articles since they are readily available, interesting, and brief.

Here are 10 steps to help you increase reading efficiency and effectiveness using newspapers or magazines.

  1. Select an interesting and easy to read article
  2. Turn the title (and any subtitle) into a question
  3. Ask, “Do I have any previous knowledge about the topic? Can I answer questions such as, who, what where, when and why?
  4. Answer the questions and visualize aspects that you already know
  5. Begin to read quickly to find the answers to any questions you don’t already know.
  6. Look for keywords and phrases that answer your questions.
  7. Concentrate on the first line of each paragraph if it is a long article.
  8. Say out loud the main ideas(s) and key facts you learned.
  9. Review any photographs or illustrations that accompany the article.
  10. Discuss the article with family, friend, or coworker.

You can improve your rate of processing information with only 10 to 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a week. When actively reading and aware you easily find the main ideas and supporting facts or examples, you feel a greater sense of control—and satisfaction.

Reading on Screens vs. Paper – What’s Best for Reading Effectiveness?

Perhaps old fashioned, I enjoy the feel of printed versus digital newspapers. I like to have the entire page before me and not be forced to scroll forward and back if I want to speed up or review a section.  In addition, many people “read slower, less accurate, and less comprehensively on screens than on paper”. If you have not read a print newspaper or magazine in a while, try it. See if you feel differently when trying to read more effectively.

Do this during breaks or as a family affair. In the short run, you’ll gain more information and possible discussion topics. In the long run, you may open the door to easier reading and more motivation to get to all those books you have bought, but not read.


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