1. Read with purpose.
There are any number of reasons why we read, this includes reading for pleasure to reading school textbooks where we try to glean the information we will need to know for a test. Whatever the reason you start reading take just a moment to ask yourself why you are reading this content, what do you want to get out of it.
There are typically six reasons that we pick up a book or magazine or newspaper or start surfing the Web:
- To understand a message.
- To find certain details.
- Find an answer to a question.
- To evaluate what you are reading.
- To find out how to do something.
- For entertainment.
So in short, know where you are going (your goal in reading) and you will have a much better chance of getting there.
2. Use the right type of reading
It is important to remember that there are different ways to read, depending on what you want out of the content. You do not necessarily need to read everything in a book or on a web page, but you do need to approach the content in a way that will help you achieve your purpose for reading.
There are a few different tactics you can use:
- Skimming - find out how to do something, understand a message
This technique is often used to quickly pull out the main ideas in some content. If you have a lot of material to cover in only a limited amount of time skimming can be very useful. You can read the first and last paragraph of a chapter, note the headings and sub-headings and look for text that is bold. You can also pay attention to illustrations, diagrams and tables.
- Scanning - understand a message, find certain details, finding a specific answer
If you want to find an answer to a particular question scanning is very effective. It involves combing text looking for specific key words or phrases. You can also use this technique when you want to find out whether this resource will be useful to you for more indepth reading or skimming.
- In-Depth or Complete immersion - entertainment, evaluation
3. Eliminate distractions.
We all live in a world filled with distractions. It will really serve you well to take the time to remove the worst of these so that you can concentrate on reading. You will get what you want much sooner and more completely in an environment free from interference.
4. Speed is overrated.
A fast reader is not always a better reader especially if she/he is not getting the message from the words or if it is taking a great amount of time to skim or scan an article or book or whatever. You can actually get much more from the content you are viewing if you read at a pace that is comfortable for you.
5. Understand the author.
It is very often useful to be aware of the motivations of the author that you are reading. These may not always be apparent, but you should be able to figure them out quickly enought. It isn't an aspect of reading that you need to dwell on, but it will help if you are evaluating material or reading to get a understand the author's message.
6. Ask questions.
One way to engage yourself and get the most out of any content is to actively ask questions about what you are reading. In your mind you will be accessing what you already know about the subject and growing that knowledge by asking yourself questions about how what you know relates to what you are reading. It is almost a silent conversation with the author.
The author may or may not answer your questions as you continue on through the material, but it will stimulate your mind to focus on the content in front of you and also keep you focused on your end-goal.
7. Review for retention.
They say that repetition is the mother of retention and you can always improve your memory of any particular content by revisiting the book or web page and ensuring that what you remember reading is accurate. One rule of thumb to follow is to review any material you would like to remember long term 24 hours, 3 days and then one week later. This will improve your recall of that material dramatically.