Effective managers are usually good readers. But maybe reading wasn’t your strong suit growing up, and despite the fact that you are doing well in your field, you always wanted to be a better reader. Your instincts are right. Better readers are more successful. It’s true, for a lot of reasons, but for one in particular-good readers have more information on which to make better judgments. It’s that simple.
But, how do you become a good reader? For years my children and others would pose the question to me. So, I began to consider the question more carefully. And while many “tools” exist to help you achieve the goal of becoming a good reader, a few simple basics can make a big difference. Consider the strategies below, compiled over the years, among the tools that improve your odds at success… in anything you do.
#1 Determine what you want to know — First ask: Why am I reading this text? Is it with a purpose (in learning) or just for pleasure? What do I want to know after reading it-an outcomes-based approach? Only can you determine whether it will satisfy your goal.
A simple approach is to look at the introduction and the chapter headings. The introduction reveals the target audience, and what (the material) seeks to achieve. Chapter headings provide an overall view of the structure of the subject.
Finally, ask whether the book meets your needs. Does it presume too much or too little knowledge (on the part of the reader)? If it doesn’t fit your need, find another.
#2 Determine how deeply to study the material — When you only need the shallowest knowledge of the subject, you can skim material. Read only chapter headings, introductions and summaries when this is your goal.
If you need a moderate level of information on a subject, scan the text. Here, you would read the chapter introductions and summaries in detail. You may then “speed read” the contents of chapters, selecting and understanding key words and concepts. Diagrams and graphs help at this level.
Study the text only when requiring detailed knowledge of a subject. First skim the material to get an overview. This reveals its structure, to fit the detail gained from a full reading of the material. SQ3R is a good technique for getting a deep understanding of a text. It follows a sequential method of examining any document, as outlined below.
Survey — Survey the document: scan the contents, introduction, chapter introductions and chapter summaries to pick up a shallow overview of the text. Form an opinion as to its helpfulness.
Question — Note questions and interests following your survey. Consider setting them as study goals for further understanding.
Read — Read through useful sections in detail, taking care to understand all the points that are relevant. It is slower for some material, but make notes using some mapping technique to aid review and learning.
Recall — Run through it all in your mind several times. Isolate core facts or essential elements of the subject; then fit the pieces together.
Review — Reread the document, expand your notes, or discuss the material with colleagues. A particularly effective method of reviewing information is to teach it to someone else!
#3 Active Reading — Highlight, underline, and annotate it as you go on. This notes emphasis, aids review, and narrows your focus to avoid distractions.
If active reading helps, buy the book in lieu of copying selected pages.
#4 How to study different sorts of material — Information is held differently in different kinds of documents. A basic understanding of these differences delivers better results.
Reading Magazines and Newspapers — Fragmented and topical, they are prepared to sell. For these scanning to identify useful articles is the most productive reading style.
Newspapers and magazines tend to be arranged in sections. Use this built in guide to find what’s of value to you, then go directly to it.
Reading Individual Articles — Articles within newspapers and magazines tend to be in three main types:
News Articles — Here the most important information is presented first, the information is generally less useful as the article progresses.
Opinion Pieces — A point of view, opinion articles present the most important information in the introduction and the summary, with supporting positions in the middle.
Features — Written for entertainment or background, the most important information is in the body of the text. Identify what you want, then go to it.
#5 Reading ‘whole subject’ documents — First compile your own table of contents before you open the document, then read to satisfy your requirements.
#6 Using glossaries with technical documents — Use glossaries for technical material. It reduces the ardor of referencing for understanding and accuracy.
Whatever your need or desire for reading, good readers are made, not born. Give it a try. If you do, I’m betting that you’ll be reading more success in your tealeaves.