These days, a most of us are scrolling, scanning and surfing to locate information for work or pleasure. But rapidly dipping in and out of material, whether on a screen or a page, hinders our ability to retain what we’re reading.
Dry content can be difficult to remember, yet it’s often vital to work success. Active reading, that is, reading with the intent to understand and evaluate, can help anyone increase their comprehension and recall. Here are a number of strategies for reading with purpose.
Before you begin
Know why you’re reading. What information do you need to gain from the material? Setting expectations will help you recall more than going in “cold.”
Write out a list of questions. What aspects of this topic will help you at work? What aspects pique your curiosity?
Preview the material. Get an overview: skim, read summaries, review an article’s opening paragraphs, and a book’s first few pages or its table of contents.
Find a quiet space. Our minds are not set up to multitask, so turn off your phone and ignore social media.
As you read
Find personal relevance. How might this information help you at work or in life? The more meaningful a topic is to us, the better we’ll remember it.
Take notes—by hand. Few of us have a photographic memory. Writing out notes—on a pad of paper, in the margins of a book, or online—helps us retain information.
Don’t read aloud. This slows us down, because our minds need to work harder. Don’t focus on each word; move your eyes across the page.
Take breaks. When you lose interest, stop! Walk around, have a coffee, chat with a friend. In a few minutes, you can return to the material refreshed.
Read with the intent to teach. When we need to explain the material to a coworker or friend, we recall more of it correctly.
After you’ve finished
Review your notes. Reread your notes and any highlighted information. With each review, you’ll remember more of the material.
Teach or describe the material. Tell a coworker or friend about it. What’s the most important thing you learned? Use basic terms and simple sentences to get to the essence of the meaning.
Read more. The more we read, the better our attention spans and understanding will become.