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4 Tips to Read Faster and Remember More

Executive Summary

Turns out our grade school teachers were right; knowledge is power. With 2.5 quintillion bytes of data entering the digital sphere each day, we’re paralyzed by information. It's no wonder the Wall Street Journal created a tool to help us assess how fast we can read through it all.

  • Leadership expert Brian Tracy has published more than 60 books. But he still believes it’s time to stop apologizing for being selective about what we read.
  • He provides a strategy for quickly deciphering the value a book or article might provide to your life so you can choose whether to invest more time into it.
  • If you want to learn how to read faster, try resource-bundling and time blocking strategies.

The average businessperson today is reading thousands of words of e-mails, reports, news stories, business information, magazine articles, and other data. To be successful today, you have to keep current with your reading requirements. We live in a knowledge-based society, and one key piece of information can have an immediate effect on your work and your decision making. Take some time to be selective about what you read. The best time saver in the world of reading and keeping current is the Delete button on your keyboard. Use it early and use it often. Resist the temptation to spend time reading things that are not of immediate value or relevance to your life and work.

How to Read Faster

You cannot avoid all of the incoming information, but you can sort it and go through it at a time and place that makes sense to you. One of the most important skills you can develop is to learn to speed-read. If you have never taken a course in speed-reading, you should do it now. This one course will allow you to triple your reading speed and level of retention, probably in the first two lessons. The technologies that have developed in speed-reading are quite phenomenal, and anyone can learn how to read 500 to 1,000 words per minute with high levels of comprehension.

  1. Bunch Your Reading

When you come across valuable items, summaries, or pieces of information on the Internet, print them out and put them into a file, or put them aside in a separate digital file on your computer for reading later. Instead of “task-shifting”—that is, switching away from the work that you are doing to read a recent piece of information—put it aside to read at a later time. Once you get into the habit of doing this, you will be amazed at how much more you read, and how much more attention you can give when you do read that material. With regard to newspapers especially, you can either have the most important information published in newspapers come to your computer on a daily basis, or you can read the paper version. In either case, skim quickly and read only what is relevant to you. In news reporting, the most important information is usually in the headline and the first paragraph. Very often, you do not need to read all the details in the story to understand exactly what has happened.

  1. Read Selectively

Magazines are designed and crafted in a way to get you to read through the magazine page by page. This is so that you will get the maximum exposure to the advertisements in the magazines. (It’s the same with newspapers.) For this reason, you must read magazines, journals, newspapers, and newsletters selectively, reading only what is relevant and important to you. Review the table of contents and go straight to the articles of interest to your life and work. A great technique for printed materials is called “rip and read.” Rip out the articles that you want to read, put them in a file, and carry the file with you to be referred to later, when you have “downtime.” Review books carefully before deciding which ones you want to spend time reading. You can subscribe to book review services, both in print and online, and get the very best ideas from any book in just a few minutes.

  1. Just Say No

The best way to save time in your reading endeavors is to make a decision not to read something at all. By carefully screening the material’s foreword, table of contents, the introduction and information about the author, or the index, you may find that the book or journal is not of importance to you. In that case, discontinue reading or discard it completely so that you can free up more time to do things of greater importance.

  1. Develop a System

Over the years, I have developed the rhythm and habit of reading three or more hours each day on subjects related to business, economics, politics, and personal development. That amounts to more than 150,000 hours of reading over the course of my career. With the information that I accumulated, I have been able to write more than sixty books, including this one. When people ask me how it is that I can read so much, my explanation is simple. I organize my reading and work away at it a little bit at a time, minute by minute, hour by hour, flight by flight, and whenever I have a period of free time, such as in an airport lounge waiting for a plane.

Remember, “readers are leaders.” It is not possible for you to keep current with your field and be on top of your industry unless you are feeding your mind, continually but selectively, with the information that is being generated today by some of the smartest people who ever lived.

Excerpted with permission from Time Management by Brian Tracy, copyright Brian Tracy.

Bring It Home

Have you maxed out your bookshelf at home? Do you have leaning towers of books sitting atop kitchen counters and office desks because you ignored your maxed out bookshelf? How many articles do you have waiting for your wandering eyes in bookmarked tabs of your web browser? I’m raising my hand on all counts. If you’re a habitual literary offender, join the club! Unfortunately, we’re the folks who are most likely to read less because we try to read everything. Like many people pack for vacation based on the person they want to be on vacation instead of the person they are, we collect content based on the reader we want to be instead of the reader we are. I look forward to putting Brian’s tips into action so I can figure out how to read faster and remember more. First up, The Testaments from Margaret Atwood (I’m a sucker for dystopian novels…)

What book are you working on right now? Share the title in the comments below! - HarperCollins Leadership Essentials

Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined.

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