Hot Tips Tuesday: Four Ways to Read More Efficiently

"Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh." — Eccl. 12:12

If there is no end to making books, then there is an equal and opposite oversupply of reading material. I'm here to ease your burden, and I should know. Imagine the copious amounts of assigned reading in seminary. On top of that, try reading for pleasure as well as to stay abreast of current events. It's not easy, but it is possible to read more with less energy... if you have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are some of my tips for reading more efficiently.

  1. Save short-form reading to a list, then read it when you have actual down time. It's easy to get distracted from the more important reading tasks (longform books). Try using Evernote (or Pocket) to collect interesting articles throughout the week. Then, lounge up on Saturday and spend an hour reading all those news items. You will find that many of them are no longer so interesting, or the news cycle has pushed forward. You'll have fewer things to read with a higher rate of return.
  2. Use text-to-speech on your computer or device to read to you. Are you using a Mac? Try highlighting a block of text, then press option-escape. If your accessibility settings are enabled, it will trigger a voice that reads at a pace you choose. I've listened to scores of hours of content this way (about 2000 pages of early church fathers, once) when my eyes were too tired to go on. You can also right-click and send text to iTunes as spoken-word tracks for taking on the go. Another option is to use Pocket on your device, since it has a built in speech service.
  3. Use a reticle-aligned speed reading app (Readsy ; Spritzlet) to keep you focused and flying. This helps me take down news articles by the dozen, in order to get a sense for which ones deserve further thought. Then I go back and read just those few carefully. 
  4. Switch between several books at regular intervals to avoid boredom and fatigue. I learned this from my mom and it changed my life. Like, really. I used to only have the mental stamina to read for about ten minutes, then I would give up. Then it hit me—why not switch books at the ten-minute mark. Suddenly, I was engaged again! I started keeping a stack of books of different genres next to my reading chair. As soon as the restlessness came on, I would switch. I found that, typically, I settle into reading after two or three changes. Then I can go for an hour or more.