Have you ever felt frustrated when reading a book, because you intend to finish it and cross it off your to-do-list, but the author is dragging out the material?
Do you ever feel like the author is trespassing on your time, because you feel bound to complete their book, but it’s daunting.
How many books have you stopped reading because you lost the desire or motivation to press on?
Here are three strategies, pre-reading, scanning, and skimming, that can solve your problem.
Pre-Reading Can Be Your Secret Weapon
Pre-reading resembles reviewing an itinerary or an agenda. Pre-reading gives you better results because you are preparing your mind for the material. When you pre-read you can easily see where the author is going from beginning to end.
Begin by reading the title and subtitle. Sometimes, but not every time, it’s a great idea to review the publication date and author’s bio. If expertise and time matter, this can be pertinent information. This may be a make or break deal, if you are researching something. This can save you valuable time and credibility.
Then, review the table of contents the author has provided you and outline there. Sometimes they include subheadings to chapters, which provides additional insight.
Next, begin by flipping through the pages reading the headings and subheadings of each chapter. Think about these headings and subheadings as cues or reminders of what’s surfacing. I call these power statements and they keep you zeroed in on the theme or main idea.
Pre-reading is the first strategy you should go to. Although you completed all these steps and you’re beginning a fresh chapter, you should also entertain the headings and subheadings of the previous chapter and the next chapter. It has likely been a few days or weeks since you pre-read the book and this gives your brain a little bit of a jolt. Again, you are gearing up for a better understanding of the material.
After I’ve read a book, I post-read. Finally, turning back through and reviewing all the chapter titles, headings and subheadings, is a good way to commit the material to memory.
There is creative reading as well as creative writing. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Scanning Can Save You Time
Scanning is the most widely used technique that I use. I use this strategy when seeking new information by rummaging through content, looking out for cues or phrases. You will use this when you have a good handle on a topic and you’re checking for additional information or new insights. Maybe you are not interested in the author’s ideas, but a specific point for research.
During my graduate level pursuit in counseling, I have read up on Freud a lot, but I already know a good share about Freud. When Freud emerges in the material I scan over it. Only slowing down to read new, relevant information I haven’t read before.
You should ask yourself the question, “How does this enhance the conversation?” as you are scanning information in the book you are reading.
In the last three textbooks I’ve bought, Freud is mentioned in each one and is usually reintroduced like I haven’t heard of him before. I don’t blame the author, because they are clueless of the level of knowledge the reader has. This is where scanning is key. Bypass the irrelevant information you already have a good handle on and only read the chapters or paragraphs that heighten your preexisting knowledge.
I’ve read a lot of self-help and personal-growth books. Many of them feed off the same ideas and concepts, therefore I don’t read the entire book. By rereading you’re not acquiring any new or relevant information, but rather you should be attempting to increase knowledge. How do you figure that out? By reading the first and last chapters. Once you’ve done this, you can strategically scan the book by using the information you gained from pre-reading to attack certain areas of the book. If you didn’t find anything enlightening about the book after reading the first and last chapters, then it’s probably not a great idea to delve deeply into it.
The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries. – Rene Descartes
Skimming Can Help You Standout
Skimming is a valuable tool and can be performed when you have limited time to consume information. The purpose of skimming is to understand the content conceptually. You really do not require a deep understanding of the material, but you just need the nitty-gritty upfront. You are skipping over stories, charts, explanations and majority of the conversation the author is trying to have with you, because all you have enough time for is the overarching concept.
You can skim when you’re standing in line at the pharmacy, riding on the subway, or just before a meeting. You may already be skimming newspapers and magazines each day, watching for current events and small pieces of data to use in your daily conversations. You might skim to refresh before a test or call up the ideas in your mind that you studied for several weeks.
When you skim you should only read the introductory and closing sentences of each paragraph. While doing this you can also read keywords, anything highlighted, and information in italics or bold, because authors usually do this to convey an importance to understanding the concept.
In conclusion, these strategies are productive, time-management strategies used for a specific purpose as shown above. I still hope you continue reading books front to back, but know that using these strategies along the way will help you read more books. The practices in this post have helped me read 18 books already in 2015, which is one more than all the books I read last year.
Adam Smith says
Love the techniques, Kirby. As I do love reading a book from front to back, it seems that I have adopted scanning more than anything else to get through content quickly. I will try out skimming and see what kind of takeaways I have from it.
Kirby Ingles says
Thanks Adam. I think these are the most useful strategies for digesting content. There are many other strategies that I have attempted and these seem to be the best as far as speed and comphrehension.