4 Steps To Increase Your Reading Efficiency
If your work involves administration and the making of executive decisions, your days are probably filled with a great deal of reading. There is the seemingly endless string of emails that pile up in your inbox. There are also the formal reports that you are asked to read, review, and contribute to. You may also be required to do independent research, which you must be ready to present as evidence to back up a particular position you’ve taken on an issue.
Such reading can be time consuming. And you will need to do it while keeping up with a busy schedule of meetings, presentations, and travel to client sites. One of the wonders of the modern age is that most of what you need to read can be accessed in digital form. You can read when attending the morning meeting or while in the train during your commute. Increasing the efficiency of your reading, however, requires a change in mental habits. Going through the four steps below will help you increase the efficiency by which you read the various emails, reports, and other documents that come your way.
It is important to have a firm understanding of the assumptions made by the author of the document you’re reading. In most cases, the person sending it will be a colleague and so you’ll be working from a common frame of reference. When reading a report or an email from someone outside of your organization, you may need to discern the presuppositions of the writer. Such presuppositions are often described as bias. And the fact that everyone has a particular interest they’re trying to advance or point of view they want to get across means that you will encounter it in everything you read. Understanding the underlying assumptions in what you read will allow you to guard against the waste of effort that comes with being misled.
Of those who regularly send you emails, some will have mastered the art of pith; others may not have done so. In any case, developing the ability to sift through the mass of detail in a document in order to get to the points being made is important. This is especially true if the subject is not one that you are familiar with. At times, the easiest way to comprehend what you’re reading is to summarize the big ideas you’ve gleaned, and then go over the details later. The human mind instinctively seeks patterns and meaning. You will become a more efficient reader if you are able to first grasp the significance of what you’re reading before delving into the details of it.
As you read, you should continuously evaluate the relevance of the contents to the issue at hand. Getting at the underlying assumptions and the main ideas in a document will help you in this regard. Indeed, you may be able to make such a judgment straightaway. Deciding the matter of relevance quickly will give you the option of responding to the sender straightaway, and asking him or her to re-think and revise what he has written, if need be. You will save yourself the time and energy of having to go through a document that has nothing to do with the work that you’re require to do.
Having gone through the three steps above, you will be in a position to see the shortcoming of what is discussed in the document. If you know you will be called upon to add your own input, then you should know the limits of what others have already said. You will be seen in a more favorable light if you are able to voice more than just your agreement or disagreement with so-and-so’s take on things. You want to be in a position of adding value to the discussion and the larger project of which it is a part. Keeping an eye out for areas where your colleagues may have fallen short in addressing some issue will allow you to skim through emails, etc. more expeditiously because you will be able to discern and summarize their ideas more quickly. You will then be able to add your input in a way that is concrete, decisive, and intelligent.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.