How to Improve Concentration While Reading And Avoid Rereading
Active reading is one of the most effective strategies to boost focus when reading. This happens when a person fully engages with a text, resulting in good comprehension of the material and understanding of its significance to their interests and needs.
Learning active reading includes applying a variety of techniques, such as splitting texts into digestible chunks or skimming and scanning through them first to find and eventually concentrate on the most important information presented in a book or document.
One of the most important factors while reading is concentration. If you are not able to focus while reading, you will likely find yourself rereading passages or even entire sections. When this happens, not only is it a waste of time but a frustrating matter as well, since you can lose total patience and comprehension of the material.
As you can see, being actively engaged in your reading is easier said than done. At some point, we’ve all struggled with dry, overly dense, technical, tedious, and boring reading material.
But, all is not lost, as there are a few things you can do to help improve your concentration while reading. In fact, in this article, we will discuss one of the best techniques to enhance focus while reading — and this method is called active reading.
We will also discuss some of the most actionable tips to improve your focus while reading.
What is active reading?
Active reading refers to reading anything with the intent of learning, absorbing, understanding, and evaluating the significance of the text to your interests and needs. It is the conscious engagement of a person with the data and concepts presented in the material.
This is frequently manifested in the transformation of what was read into notes and other items that document and reflect one’s knowledge and response to the information encountered in a specific text.
Active reading is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice. It involves using techniques such as skimming and scanning to focus on the most important information in a text—making sure that you understand what you are reading as you go along.
Learning how to do this is important because active reading can help you improve your focus, concentration, and understanding. That way, you can avoid rereading, save time when trying to find specific information in a long or dense piece of writing, and it helps you remember where to locate it.
What are the steps of active reading?
Learning how to actively engage in what you’re reading consists of doing ten things:
- Scan through the entire text first to establish a general idea of what the material is about. This is important to determine which parts of the texts contain pertinent information.
- Write down all the possible questions you might have. This would give you plenty of room to assess yourself after reading the text.
- Break up the text into manageable chunks. In general, dividing tasks helps improve one’s motivation and focus. Plus, it also helps you set small targets to get started. Remember, active reading does not mean reading the entire text without taking a break. It means going through the material once with full concentration and engagement for full understanding.
- Read the text and engage with it as much as possible. You can do this by taking down notes while reading, highlighting important texts, moving your finger from left to right at a steady pace as you go along, and applying other examples of active reading written after this section.
- Create mind maps to mentally visualize and sketch what you’ve learned.
- Revisit the questions you’ve written in step two and try to answer them.
- Pay close attention to the points you forgot, misremembered, or just ignored.
- Revisit the parts of the material that you need more information on.
- Now, try to answer the questions you’ve omitted or forgotten the answers to in relation to steps six, seven, and eight.
- The last step is optional—but if you want to make sure that you have full command or mastery of the material, make a full mental picture of everything you’ve learned to tie everything together. You can do this by creating one final mind map, or making a summary of what you’ve just read by writing down all the significant aspects of the text.
Examples of active reading
Some examples of active reading include:
- Visualizing textual notions or ideas
- Developing outlines and flowcharts, as well as sketching images and diagrams, to demonstrate how concepts interact among or between texts
- Establishing links between ideas and reflecting on the significance of the reading for the course setting
- Analyzing numbers, graphs, and other visuals included in the text with diligence and drawing connections between them
- Highlighting or underlining important facts, words, definitions, and concepts
- Making notes on separate paper or in a computer file
- Writing annotations
- Summarizing pertinent information and ideas
- Paraphrasing to simplify sentences
- Looking up new terms or ideas
- Reading out loud
- Making test questions for learning assessment
- Teaching someone else what you’ve learned after reading
- Using anything as a pointer for your eyes to follow while reading
- Applying mnemonics to remember pertinent information and details
Other actionable tips to improve your focus while reading
Here are some of the tips that you can apply to improve your focus while reading:
Control your environment as best as you can.
Find a good reading spot and make it clutter-free. Choose a quiet place to enable concentration, too. Try carving out a slot of time for your reading. During this time, strive to be in a quiet environment, and do not check email or take calls.
By blocking out all distractions and dedicating a portion of your time exclusively to reading, you will be surprised how much material you can cover.
- Eliminate distractions. Keep your phone and other gadgets away from you, or simply anything that can keep you preoccupied.
- Understand why you’re reading. This is particularly effective if you have a test coming up in a few days. Your reason for reading can help you push yourself and finish the material successfully.
- Mind your posture. In the long term, the position in which we read might have an effect on our body. The most recommended posture in reading a book is to sit on a chair properly with your back straight. Position your feet firmly on the ground with your knees at a 90-degree angle while bringing your book on eye level. Avoid lying down as this will most likely make you feel tired and sleepy, while other positions can give you unnecessary body aches, particularly in your neck and back.
- Minimize your stressors. One of the reasons you find it hard to concentrate is stress. Aside from addressing what causes it, some of the things that you can do to minimize your stressors include getting quality sleep, eating a healthy diet, increasing exercise, reducing caffeine intake, and managing your time.
- Try meditating. Meditation will help clear your mind, especially from anxiety. This enables your brain to allow thoughts and learning to pass through.
- Set reading targets and stick to them. Divide the reading material into segments and aim to finish reading it within a specific period.
- Take systematic breaks while reading. For example, if you have a lot to read, take small breaks (less than one minute) after reading for 15 to 20 minutes. This simple act provides yet another layer of repetition and reinforcement to help you remember more of what you read. These breaks can also help you avoid the dreaded zoning-out effect.
- Motivate yourself. Tie reading to a certain reward, like getting good grades and eating chocolate, or finishing an entire chapter and watching a movie afterward. So whenever you feel tired, think of the rewards you’ve set for yourself and allow them to motivate you, excite you, and inspire you to complete your reading task.
- Create notes and outlines while reading to retain what you’ve learned while going through the material.
- Review and summarize when you’re done.
Improving concentration while reading is difficult, which is why active reading requires ongoing practice. Try to read every day using all of the tips and recommendations in this post, even if it’s just for enjoyment. You’ll eventually cultivate the habit of active reading effectively.
Active reading is an effective process-oriented, customized, purposeful, and adaptable method of improving concentration while reading. Active reading techniques should be chosen and used based on the type of content, as well as the reader’s learning style and reading goal.
Active reading helps readers maintain concentration and engagement, improves comprehension and retention, and produces a visual record of the reading experience and key information in a text.
To learn active reading, prepare to focus by exercising, meditating, and eating healthily to boost your focus and attention span. Create a distraction-free environment, choose a peaceful location, and concentrate on your reason and motivation for reading.
You should also take notes and utilize learning tools like mind maps to make the most of your reading time. Don’t forget to look over and scan the material beforehand so you know what you will be reading about. Also, take breaks, reward yourself, and try to make reading fun.
Once you combine all of this, you will see a significant difference in successfully improving your concentration while reading.
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.
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