7 Steps To Maximize Comprehension
Step #1: When Are You Most Productive?
Figure out your peak performance period. This is the time of day where you are most focused. For some people, it’s the morning, and for others, it might be the middle of the day or at night. Try to utilize this time for your most important reading.
Step #2: Where Are You Most Productive?
Figure out your ideal place for reading. It’s different for everyone, but it could be a library or cafe. It could be your room, office, or during your commute (legal disclaimer: do not read and drive). Find a consistent place where you can easily focus on your reading.
Step #3: Schedule a Block of Time for Reading
Once you’ve determined your peak performance period, designate a block of time for reading. This should be uninterrupted time for completely dedicated reading. Shoot for time blocks of 15-25 minutes. Research has shown that most people have trouble maintaining their focus on a particular task for more than 25 minutes. The same goes for reading. If you have to read for more than one hour, don’t do it all at once. Try reading for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. Rinse and repeat.
Step #4: Eliminate Distractions
Before you begin reading, turn off your phone, email, instant messenger, facebook, twitter, and any other digital distractions during the time you set aside. Don’t worry, you can check your phone or any of these digital distractions after you’re done with your timed block of reading. If there is potential to get distracted by other people, let them know you’ll be busy for the next <blank> period of time. Most people are pretty reasonable and won’t distract you if you tell them you need to focus for a set period of time.
(Optional Step: Listen To Music)
Listen to music if it helps you concentrate while reading. Ideally, you’ll want to find music without lyrics. Classical music tends to work well for most people. If you don’t like reading while listening to music, try putting headphones on without the music. This is a discrete way to tell others around you that you’re busy. People are less likely to interrupt you if they see you have headphones on.
Step #5: Take Breaks & Reward Yourself
Take periodic breaks and reward yourself for the awesome job you’ve done reading. For example, read for 25 minutes and reward yourself with something. Here are some ways: eat a snack, give in to that urge to check Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, your email, or just reward yourself by eating a whole tub of ice cream (legal disclaimer: Iris is not liable for any sugar crashes resulting from your sugar binge). If you have more than an hour of reading to do, make sure that your breaks/rewards are limited to no more than 5 minutes for every 25 minutes of reading.
Step #6: Prioritize and Plan Your Reading
Prioritize your most important reading by getting it done first. Don’t start with the easiest stuff to read (this is sometimes a form of procrastination). Plan out a reading schedule, put it into checklist form, and stick to it!
Step #7: Leverage Software & Apps
Utilize technology to make yourself a more productive reader. Here are some useful applications that all readers should be aware of.
AccelaReader: This app will blink words on the screen at a speed that you set helping you focus on reading quickly and efficiently.
SummarizeThis: Helps you summarize information you don’t have time to read. It’s like CliffNotes for anything you want to read! Enter the text you want to summarize, and the algorithm will provide you with the most important information you need to read.
Evernote: Great tool for organizing your notes. It will sync your notes between all your devices (desktop, laptop, and/or mobile device).
Pocket: If you read a lot online, this app let’s you easily save articles to read later.
Paul is the founder of Iris Reading, the largest provider of speed-reading and memory courses. His workshops have been taught to thousands of students and professionals worldwide at institutions that include: NASA, Google, HSBC and many Fortune 500 companies.