Improve your reading efficiency with these easy strategies.
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October 8, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
There are many good reasons why the saying ‘leaders are readers’ is a known adage. People like Bill Gates, Oprah and many others are prolific readers who prioritize reading despite their busy lifestyles.
For leaders, reading provides mental benefits and information that keeps them updated with their industry. They also improve their leadership skills and critical thinking abilities. Reading books by other leaders from the past or contemporary times also acts as a form of mentorship.
There are many valuable lessons to be gained from the autobiographies and stories of leaders and from accounts of great businesses.
It isn’t necessary to focus on business content alone. Reading literature, humorous content, or any other subject matter is life-enhancing. It exercises the mind and creates empathy. These are things that make for better leadership.
My last argument for reading as a strong leadership habit is that it can be highly motivating. Depending on the content you read, you can improve your productivity and find the resilience you need to get through your entrepreneurial struggles. I find that the trials and triumphs of other people serve as helpful touchpoints when I face my own challenges.
So, how can one improve their reading skills to make the best of books? Here are my tips.
1. Keep a pen handy
You can absorb more of what you’ve read if you immediately write down a few notes as you read. If you’re reading a paper book, go ahead and deface it with doodles, written notes and by underlining and highlighting ideas that strike you as important.
While reading from an ebook reader, having a notepad and pen nearby is helpful to scribble down what you’re thinking. The act of reading is a mental activity. When you take notes by doodling or writing, you’re involving more of your mind and enhancing your understanding of the concepts in the book.
Another plus is that the next time you pick up your book, looking at your notes will remind you of the most important concepts you found. You won’t have to start over or look for the content you want.
2. Don’t skip the introduction or footnotes
Many people like to dive into the meat of a book without going over sections like the introduction or footnotes. These places often provide helpful context and motivation that can help you get more out of the material you’re reading. Understanding why a book was written and getting an overview of its significance helps you make sense of the content and appreciate the material more.
3. Create reading hygiene
If you find it hard to focus on a book or a long article for any length of time, then practicing “reading hygiene” will help you become a better reader. Essentially, you need to create a good environment for reading and build habits that support reading for a long time. Here are a few reading hygiene tips:
- Schedule time to read just as you would for a meeting or an appointment. Setting aside an hour a day before you go to sleep is a great way to wind down and relax your mind. A quiet evening makes for a great reading environment although early mornings are pleasurable too. You’ll put yourself in a frame of mind that makes for better sleep
- Avoid social media completely while reading. Having your phone beside you is a sure-fire way to get distracted lose track of what you’ve been reading. Having to find where you’ve stopped and resuming your previous train of thought can be frustrating and put you off from reading.
- Set a goal for your reading. You could read for a certain amount of time or opt to finish an entire chapter or two. Creating a goal ensures that you are focused and progress towards finishing your book
You can create your own reading hygiene methods by fixing a special time or creating a physical environment that includes soft music and lights. Make sure you follow the same practices regularly to make reading a familiar routine.
Journaling about what you’ve read is different from making notes and doodles. I suggest freewriting for several pages to get your thoughts down on paper once you’re done with reading. This is where you write non-stop and let your thoughts flow for a specific amount of time. Set a timer for 10 to 20 minutes and keep writing until the timer goes off.
You’ll see insights and ideas emerge that connect what you’ve read to experiences in your life.
Reading is a critical habit for any leader. Use the ideas I’ve presented here to grow your reading habit. You’ll be able to get more from what you read and improve your leadership abilities.