Get the most of your reading
Have you ever zoned out while reading a business proposal or proposition and realized you were not actually taking in anything? Do you have a hard time reading material you find boring? Good reading strategies will keep you active, alert, and interested in the material. Strong reading strategies help you focus on what’s important and skim what is less important. You can save an abundance of time and efficiently maneuver through reading material, while retaining more information than before.
There are three main steps involved with a useful, effective reading strategy. These include: pre-reading, pseudo-skimming, notating, connecting, and reviewing.
Step 1: Pre-reading
Pre-reading primes your brain on what to focus on and guides you on where to focus (Adler, 2001). Before reading the full text, try gazing upon certain key sections (Adler, 2001). For example, looking at the title and subtitles of an article, book, business proposition, etc., allows us to inculcate our brains on the important areas of the text. Looking at title subtitles and introductions provides clues to what the author considers important (Adler, 2001). Other things to consider are introductions, bold-face print, graphics/images, and executive summaries (Adler, 2001). Surveying a sales pitch or report only a few minutes is well worth your time. When you survey a sales pitch or report, you create a mental framework for the new material which helps your brain organize information so that it's easily understood and retrievable. Looking at these in advance will be a clue into what you can skim, rather than read closely, when you read the full text. Pre-reading helps you distinguish what is important and what is not.
Step 2: Pseudo-skimming, notating, and connecting
The second step to getting the most out of your reading will require some practice but will pay off. In pseudo-skimming, you skim the non-essentials and read the essentials carefully. Pseudo-skimming, also referred to as pseudo-reading, (Adler & Van Doren, 2014) requires that you slow down and read carefully whenever you see an article passage or business case study that relates to the essentials you determined in the pre-reading portion. In this instance, the essentials refer to explanations, definitions, and technical material directly related to the pre-reading material (Adler &Van Doren, 2014). The non-essential information is more akin to long explanations of a key concept, if you understand the key concept, you can skim the extra content such as non-essential details. Non-essential details include examples and sources (Adler & Van Doren, 2014). Examples can generally be skimmed, especially if they serve to explain a concept you already understand (Adler& Van Doren, 2014). Examples that tell a story are more easily absorbed and therefore can be read quicker. Sources can be skimmed over because they are more of a reference point to gain additional knowledge (Adler& Van Doren, 2014).
Notating text, while cumbersome at times, can be very beneficial because notations can help focus our attention and reorganize information to be more easily understood (Adler & Van Doren, 2014). Notation includes; underlining or highlighting, vertical lines in the margin, starring or using an asterisk, putting numbers in the margin, circling or highlighting key words or phrases, and writing in the margins (Adler & Van Doren, 2014). All of these indicate importance and can act as visual cues to focus and direct our attention to crucial bits of information (Adler & Van Doren, 2014). Further, notating the text can streamline our review process and can help in building an outline (Adler & Van Doren, 2014).
In an earlier blog (http://the-he.com/blog/expand-your-memory/), we discussed the importance of connections and how you remember information better when there is a connection to the material. Personal connections/references make information more memorable. It aids in our memory processing when you can scaffold information with a multitude of connections for maximum retention and retrieval. Employing the senses can be powerful making emotional or personal connections wherever possible. It can be very helpful to try to picture things as you read, especially if you learn visually or particularly if you are thinking of personal images (Adler, 2001). If you are someone who learns best by listening rather than reading, try to “hear” some or all of the reading in your head (Adler, 2001). Reading aloud, even in your head, is often slower than reading silently. If this technique helps in understanding, but slows you down more than you can afford, use it only for essential content.
Step 3: Reviewing
The last stage, review, is short but an essential part (Adler& Van Doren, 2014). Look back through the parts you have notated or otherwise marked. Do you remember why you marked those words/phrases? Will any notes be clear when you look at them a week or so from how? If not, add whatever is needed. When you look over your notes, you may realize some of your annotations are not all that essential. In that case, you can cross them out, put them in parentheses, whatever you need to indicate that you no longer need to refer to them (Adler& Van Doren, 2014). This way you can be more effective and help streamline an efficient review. A sentence or two to summarize each reading will go a long way to cementing the main point in your mind (Adler& Van Doren, 2014).
By taking time and going through readings in a more effective and efficient manner, you can get the most out of you readings. You can learn to focus and reorganize information, skip non-essential passages, facilitate a good method for review, and increase our ability to recall information by using connections.
If you are interested in learning more about effective reading habits, feel free to reach out to HigherEchelon for more specific tools.
References Adler, Mortimer Jerome, and Charles Van Doren. How to read a book. Simon & Schuster, 2014.
Adler, C.R. (Ed). 2001. Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, pp. 49-54. National Institute for Literacy.