Excellent Tips for Improving Your Reading

[Photo by Dreamstime Studio. – Legal use licensed via Dreamstime - May 2015]

[Photo by Dreamstime Studio. – Legal use licensed via Dreamstime - May 2015]

If you’re like me, there never seems to be enough time to read. While life has a way to stripping away our free time, more often than not, each of us don’t necessarily do a great job of managing the spare time we have available. That’s why I was happy to run across some helpful advice in a blog posting in Publisher’s Weekly by author Gretchen Rubin where she recommended ten steps to improving a person’s reading abilities.

I found most of her tips very helpful and I’ve begun to incorporate them into my reading routine. Here’s some of her tips that I found particularly helpful.

 Tip #1: Quit reading.

At first, this sounded shocking. However, that simple statement is much more than it appears. In fact, it’s excellent advice! Instead of slogging through a book that you’re simply not able to appreciate, don’t feel guilty or obligated…just STOP READING and put it aside. Move on to something else that catches your eye that perhaps will be more satisfying. Reading shouldn’t be a chore, you should enjoy it. Don’t waste valuable free time reading something you don’t like. Of all of Gretchen’s tips, I appreciated this valuable nugget of wisdom the most.

 Tip #2: Skim.

It’s important to read the things that are most important or that interest you, so quickly glance through media such as newspapers, magazines, or Internet content to find the most relevant content. Only select key items to explore further or in more detail. Spend your reading time wisely and with the focus of maximizing both your reading pleasure and knowledge.

I recall that while completing a graduate course in financial institutions for my master’s degree, my professor mentored us on how to efficiently read the Wall Street journal, as well as most any daily newspaper. He advised us not to spend more than a minute per page scanning article titles and subtitles for content of interest or value to our industry or expertise, and he cautioned us to select only a handful of the most interesting or pertinent articles to read in total. Since then, I’ve regularly applied those principles to reading magazines, newspapers, and online content and it’s paid off handsomely in saving valuable time.

 Tip #3: Set aside time to read demanding books.

Learning and expanding my intellectual horizons is very satisfying to me. As such, it’s good to occasionally read material that challenges or expands your own intellectual horizons. That may include simply reading some classically-written literature or poetry that requires careful consideration to successfully comprehend. (House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, anybody?)

For style purposes, classical literature and poetry demonstrates how writing styles have changed. From a practical point of view, not only will you learn new and compelling things by broadening your horizons, you may also acquire helpful and essential knowledge that will aid in writing your next novel. Besides, one never knows when they will end up as a contestant on Jeopardy someday. (Hey, I personally know a fellow author, William Bernhardt, who was a successful, winning Jeopardy contestant.)

 Tip #4: Always have plenty of reading material on hand.

You never know when you’ll find yourself pausing at length, so always try to have something to read handy. Today, it’s so easy to install an app on a smartphone or tablet that enables you to download and read eBooks, so this should be relatively easy advice to embrace.

 Tip #5: Keep a reading list, and keep it handy.

For best results, keep that list on your smartphone or tablet so that it’s handy at a moment’s notice, both to reference and to add to when the moment strikes. I started this over four years ago and it’s been invaluable and convenient. It’s even helped me in conversations to recall a book title or author. In truth, I’ve expanded that advice to “books read” and “movies to see” as well.

*pausing* Okay, let’s hold the Type-A personality quips to a minimum, shall we?

At the very least, I’ve graduated to a Type-A-minus nowadays…

 Tip #6: Don’t fight reading inclinations.

Read what you feel in the mood to read and not only will you read more material, you’ll feel more satisfied about reading it. Seriously, this works! For authors, I take that to another level by adding: write what you want to write whenever the mood strikes you. You’ll write more passionately and be happier with the content that you’ve written.

 All in all, I’ve found those six tips invaluable, and they have already improved my reading satisfaction, as well as made better use of my available spare time.

There are a number of other tips that I didn’t list here, so if you’d like to read Gretchen Rubin’s full blog post regarding her reading advice, click HERE.

Happy reading!

[5-2-2015: The link has been corrected for the blog article by Gretchen Rubin. - Jaz]