How to Read a Book in an Hour by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D.
One of the many time thieves in a professional’s life is slow reading. Certainly, there are times for slow, no-rush, no-worries reading (such as when you are on vacation on a beach, a mountaintop, or in your hammock). However, there are other times when you are reading as if you had all the time in the world – but it’s only because you don’t know how to read quickly.
This week’s tip isn’t going to teach you to read 2000 words per minute. (Although I *can* teach you and your staff how to do that in a workshop. Contact me for me information if you are interested). What this set of Top Ten Productivity Tips *will* help you do is to read and retain only those portions of a book that suit your needs.
- First, ask (and answer) ‘What is my purpose for reading this book?’
- Write down your purpose on a bookmark. An index card works great for this.
- Make sure the book is “broken in,” i.e., that you gently open the book at the center and press it, then 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!
- Read the introduction to the book, if there is one. This helps you get a general sense of the book.
- Survey the table of contents, noticing what is of interest to you, given the purpose you have noted on your bookmark.
- Revise your purpose, as needed. Sometimes what you thought you were going to read about isn’t what the book is about–and so you need to reframe your purpose.
- Set a timer for one hour, go to an appropriately quiet reading spot and read *only* what you perceive to be the most valuable sections or chapters. Note: By the time you get to setting a timer, you may have already decided that this book isn’t for you, after all.
- Whichever parts you are reading, read fast! Just speed up your eyes! Your brain is perfectly capable of staying with you, I promise.
- Read with a pencil or pen in your hand. Post-it® notes are useful as well.
- Jot down key words or mind map your ideas as you go. When you finish, take a look at your notes and/or your 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.
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.
If you liked these writing tips, you may be interested in the Get a Plan! Guide® for Dealing with and Deflecting Distractions. It’s specially designed so you can accomplish your goals more smoothly (i.e., peacefully, productively, and predictably). You’ll learn ways to take stock of your distractions, along with 6 means to eliminate – or at the very least, minimize – those distractions. I promise that you will have a plan that you can implement starting today.