Are you really reading?
You may have found yourself in a position something like this before. You have a book that you will be quizzed over in your next college literature class, only your chums convinced you to hit the big party at the fraternity the night before. Or maybe you just fell asleep reading it.
Next morning, mind fuzzy and hungover, you thumb through James Joyce's Ulysses in an hour, over Fruit Loops and strong coffee. The book reads like an elaborate joke written for hungover college students.
Still, maybe you remember a detail or two and get a couple points you would not have received on the quiz otherwise. You gained something. Not much.
I'll confess to having just an hour to prepare to teach The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway, which I had somehow not yet read, to a chipper group of 60 college students. Luckily, it's short.
But, suppose your boss tosss you a 50 page white paper that you need to report on in 20 minutes.
Regardless of the circumstances, you do a lot of different kinds of reading from emails to biographies, and your brain adapts to the needs of the situation (or not). The more skilled you are as a reader and writer, the easier this adaptation becomes.
Reading with a purpose
A spectrum of reading exists, from the challenging to the simple, and I 'mention just a few here to give you some context before I share some tricks for adapting your reading style. You change your reading depending on your purpose and how much time you have:
- Critical: the serious, methodic, and evaluative. Aims to retain, learn, enter a dialogue, assessment.
- Serious: the studious, attentive, and focused. Intends to learn but not necessarily assess or evaluate.
- Strategic: the quick, planned, and purposeful. This is the kind I'll describe in more detail. You do not actually read the whole piece, which makes it different from the next kind.
- Speed: the super fast and systematic. You can take courses that teach you how to do this various different ways successfully.
Just to reassure you that I'm not taking you down a path to madness, check out this quote and who said it:
Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
So my aim here is to provide you with tools to allow you to adjust your reading rate depending on the circumstances.
You can do strategic reading at various rates depending on how much time you have. This is the coolest quality: you can adapt on the fly. Here are the steps:
- Note how much time you have and how long the piece is. This lets you know how to pace yourself as you go through the process. You may even decide you need to skip some steps.
- Look at the title