What a useful thing you read today
How to read texts faster, understand them better and keep them longer
by Tim Reichel
I know what you did today
You have read.
Yesterday and the day before yesterday, too, probably. I bet you read almost every day. And I'm almost sure you can't keep most of it in your head for three minutes.
Don't worry, many readers feel that way; and students in particular. During your studies you are thrown at you with texts. Here a textbook, there a stack of lecture slides and in between a few case studies, exercise sheets or background literature.
Read, read, read. And best of all keep everything and be able to call it up in a structured manner as required. But this is exactly where the problem lies: You have been taught to read, but you have not been shown a correct reading strategy that enables you to deal with this mountain of information.
Do you recognize yourself again? Very good, because then this article will help you - all you have to do is read it.
Read Bachelor of Time for free!
More productive reading: that's how it works!
If you deal with long and rich texts on a daily basis, you need a reading strategy that will help you read faster and understand - and retain - more of what you have read.
The following 8-point plan will help you:
1. Get an overview
Before you jump into your book or excerpt from your text, you should get a rough overview. Flip through the pages that you are about to read: How much text do you have in front of you? How are the pages structured? Are there graphics, interactive parts or other special features? Find out what to expect - this will help you avoid surprises and reach your goal faster.
2. Cross-reading / check the table of contents
Next, scan the text or table of contents of the book. Refine your overview that you worked out in step 1 and try to get a first rough feeling for content-related topics. What is the text about? What are the main areas of focus? How are these structured? As soon as you know the structure, you will be interrupted less often when reading later and you will be able to recognize thematic relationships much more easily.
After the structure is clear, you move on to your main work: reading. Not - as usual - word for word, but a bit brisk and more selective. You scan your text. This means: you hover over your text and try to take in every line with your eyes as quickly as possible. Pay attention to special features such as headings, lists or other highlighting and pay more attention to these highlights. Race over each side two to three times in this way, taking a maximum of ten seconds per run - per side.
Do you also know the sentence “You are not allowed to write in books”? Forget him. It's wrong, stupid, and prevents you from being productive while reading. Books are there so that we can learn from them and become smarter as a result. But we will only do this if we use them as a work tool. Therefore, get in the habit of marking important passages in the text, key statements or relevant examples while reading. Not later, but right the first time. The best way to do this is to use different colors, paint symbols on the edge and write questions or your own findings directly on the text.
Fast reading (or "speed reading") has been a big trend for several years. I myself gained my first experience with speed reading with the book by Tony Buzan (affiliate link) and have mastered the basic techniques (some of which I will show you in simplified form in this article). However, I advise against expensive courses, annoying seminars or copied e-books. For quick results, however, I can recommend the Quick Reader app (no affiliate link).
If you want to read productively, you definitely can't be too perfectionist. That means: you don't need to read everything that is presented to you. There will always be sentences, sections or entire chapters in your texts that are irrelevant to you. If you find such a text module: Stop reading on the spot and skip to the next starting point. Leave these parts out - they just steal your time.
Immediately after reading a larger section, you should summarize the most important information and key messages of the author in writing. Write down what you have learned from the text in short, concise sentences. Use your own words and present the connections precisely. If you have set your markings (point 4) well, it is often sufficient to formulate and collect these notes.
After the summary, many students stop working - and in doing so they destroy more than 90 percent of their success. Why? Because the information they have ingested has not yet been anchored in their brains. Prize question: How do you do it? Answer: With action. Apply what you have read directly by carrying out a small mini-learning activity. Either think of your own application example, research background information or learn a quick definition by heart. Do some math, translate a technical term or think of a question for the next lecture. The possibilities are endless - the only thing that matters is that you act.
Bonus: productivity booster
If you want to go a step further and make your reading work even more professional, then take a look at these five bonus tips:
Tip 1: set written goals
Before you start reading, establish three written goals that you want to achieve during your reading session. With clear goals, you'll read more accurately and build better focus. You also create your own little control mechanism in this way.
For example, your goals could be:
- "After reading, I would like to be able to answer all the exercise questions on the topic."
- "I know what is behind Definition X."
- "I know all the examples from Chapter Y."
- "I have a completed summary of Text Z."
Tip 2: adapt the reading environment
If you are disturbed by your surroundings while reading and working, you will never be able to unleash your full productivity. Therefore optimize your reading environment:
- Make sure there is enough light
- Create enough space so that you don't feel cramped while reading
- Have something ready to write about
- Turn off loud noises or use earplugs
Tip 3: stop time
Many people think they are productive - until they stop their time. Because only then do they work efficiently and become productive. If you read for time and also record this duration, you will automatically read faster than ever before. And that without any noticeable loss of quality. It sounds implausible, but the mere presence of a stopwatch and running through a seconds counter will make you grow beyond yourself.
Tip 4: create a mind map
In addition to your summary (point 7), you can use your markings and notes (point 4) to prepare your text graphically. To do this, create a mind map and try to put the content of your text into a factual context. Mind maps help you to keep track of things and make it easier to memorize dry technical information. In addition, the interdependence of the individual topics becomes clear.
Tip 5: use e-books
If you can get texts or textbooks electronically, you should make use of this option immediately. And great use. E-books or simple PDFs are great because:
- Text passages can easily be marked
- Comments can be added as required
- With the help of the search function, relevant information can be found more quickly
- Text modules can be copied into other documents
- Pages can be easily removed, copied and named accordingly
- electronic texts can be taken anywhere and read more easily while on the go
If you work with e-books, you can make reading easier thanks to the technical applications. It doesn't make it more romantic - it just makes it more efficient.
Read Bachelor of Time for free!
Any student can read. Probably not even every tenth person can read correctly - in the sense of productive and sustainable. I myself only started late to see texts from my studies for what they really are: tools. And tools must be used in such a way that they save their users as much work as possible.
Therefore, develop a functional reading strategy for yourself. Say goodbye to the thought that you have to read every text word for word and study every letter in detail. This approach only slows you down and costs time. You're not supposed to win a beauty award while reading. Your job is to get the most important information out of your texts. And as quickly, as precisely and as efficiently as possible.
Therefore: Grab a text, scan the list from above one more time, take a point out of the catalog of measures and implement it directly! Then the next. And so on.
And if you don't have any text at hand, I'll give you the first 34 pages of my book:
Download free excerpt from Bachelor of Time (click!)
Good luck with your reading!
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