HourglassOne of the many time thieves in our lives is slow reading. There are times for slow, no-rush, no-worries reading. However, there are other times when it seems that we are reading as if we had all the time in the world–but only because we don’t know how to read quickly.  This week’s Keys for Keeping Chaos at Bay isn’t going to teach you to read 2000 words per minute (although I *can* teach you that in a workshop; contact me for me information on that).  What these keys *will* help you do is to read and retain only those portions of a book that suit your needs.

  1. First, ask (and answer) ‘What is my purpose for reading?’ This needs to become one of your habits when preparing to read.
  2. Write down your purpose on a bookmark. An index card works great for this.
  3. Make sure the book is “broken in,” i.e., that you gently open the book at the center and press it, open at the ¼ and ¾ portions and press it, etc. Your books will last longer and be easier to use if you do this when you get the book. People new to my workshops laugh and think I’m kidding when I hand out books and then make sure that they “open their new books properly.” My regular participants starting doing so without my asking–and are very proud of themselves, may I say!
  4. Read the introduction, if there is one. This helps you get a general sense of the book.
  5. Survey the table of contents, noticing what is of interest to you, given the purpose you have noted on your bookmark.
  6. Revise your purpose, as needed. Sometimes what we thought we were going to read about isn’t what the book is about–and so we need to reframe our purpose.
  7. Set a timer for one hour, go to an appropriately quiet reading spot, and read *only* what you perceive to be the most valuable. Note: In some cases, by the time you get to setting a timer, you may have already decided that this book isn’t for you, after all.
  8. Whichever parts you are reading, read fast! Just speed up your eyes! Your brain is perfectly capable of staying with you, I promise.
  9. Read with a pencil or pen in your hand. Post-it® notes are useful as well.
  10. Jot down key words or mind map as you go. When you finish, take a look at your notes and/or mind map. Add additional thoughts, words, ideas, or sentences to what you have already written. Think about what you have learned and how you will apply this information.

Dr. Joe Vaughn, one of my mentors in graduate school (I have a Ph.D. in Reading Education & Linguistics) said, “Reading is an event of thinking cued by text.”  Let this definition serve you. Let the text cue your thinking about the topic. Imagine reading 5 – 10 (or more) books a week. You can.

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