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Productivity / Time management tips

Speed reading: How to read those business books fast!

I have been running speed reading workshops for several years now and in this article I’ll share with you what I consider to be the most effective approach to reading books, or any material, without actually having to 'speed read' it.

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To learn how to prosper as a soloist, it is necessary to spend time reading. But just how much of this time is truly improving your bottom line or your quality of life? Take a moment to consider the following questions:

  • Are you reading the right material from credible sources?
  • Are you interacting with what you’re reading and thinking about it, rather than just accepting it?
  • Are you controlling your reading material, rather than letting it control you?
  • Are you taking steps to purposefully select, retain and apply useful information?
  • Are you making every second spent reading count?

If you’ve answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, read on to find out how to both improve your reading and save time.

Most authors organise what they write in a logical fashion, but that doesn’t mean that their train of thought is what suits you best. We all approach reading material from different starting points, knowledge levels and ways of thinking. So use that to your advantage and design your approach accordingly.

The following speed reading methods will help you get written information more efficiently, whether it’s from books or any other form of reading material:

"Most authors organise what they write in a logical fashion, but that doesn’t mean that their train of thought is what suits you best."

  • Get focused by confirming your objective before starting.
  • Gather potential material based on credibility or personal interest.
  • Prioritise the reading material which will most likely meet your objective the fastest.
  • Keeping your objective in mind and note down what you already know. This gives you a solid starting point, focuses your mind and enables you to skip over familiar material faster.
  • If you were conversing with the author, what would you ask them in order to meet your objectives? Write these down. You will now read to answer these questions, and throughout this process, as soon as you have met your objective, STOP! You don’t have to read the entire book!
  • Browse the front, back and contents of the material.
  • Flick through the entire book quickly, looking at chapter headings and pictures only. Will this book meet your objectives? If not, locate other material.
  • Add any new thoughts, ideas or questions to your notes.
  • Flick through again, noticing the chapter headings and pictures again, as well as reading words in bold and other sub headings.
  • Check your objective and questions. Flick through again, skimming each page and dipping in to read anything that you are drawn towards that might meet your objectives. Do not read everything.
  • Add to your notes, answer and add more questions if you want to.
  • Flick through again, reading anything else that you haven’t already, that will answer your questions.

Want more articles like this? Check out the time management tips section.

If you have followed this process properly, you should have extracted all the useful information. If you haven’t, then next time try to assess earlier whether the material will meet your objective.

This process has many benefits including:

  •  tailoring reading material to your needs;
  • getting at the right information faster;
  • keeping you interested and involved in the material;
  • increasing understanding by tackling it in an order that suits you;
  • enhancing retention through covering ground multiple times and building your knowledge in a sensible structured way.

By applying this speed reading method accurately, you’ll find yourself getting through those business books much faster!

So, good luck and please add a comment to let us know how you get on!

Mark Moore

is the Director of Excelerated Performance International. He helps people to close the skills and knowledge gaps that they face, much faster, and manage themselves more effectively in order to achieve their business goals.

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