Between books, online articles, emails, Facebook posts, and even tweets, most people do a crazy amount of reading each day. That’s especially true for freelancers.
All that reading can take up a lot of your day. Some estimates suggest that in business, a person spends about two hours a day reading.
That’s a quarter of a standard workday.
Imagine if you could trim that two-hour chunk down to an hour and a half. You’d have an extra two and a half hours every week! That’s 10 extra hours a month. What would you do with 10 extra hours in a month?
Speeding up your reading can save you precious time, making your workday more efficient and maximizing your potential revenue.
5 Tips to Becoming a More Efficient Reader
1. Have a plan and a goal in mind for the long stuff
A lot of your reading probably comes in short little chunks. But sometimes, you’ll need to read longer, multipage documents. When that’s the case, planning in advance can help you extract the information you want in the least amount of time.
When faced with a long read, begin by asking yourself “What do I want to get out of this?”
Start by identifying the one or two important pieces of information you’re hoping to find or the questions you most want answered.
Once you know what you’re looking for, read the introduction and then the conclusion — that might be enough to point you to the right place… or let you know if the text isn’t what you’re looking for after all.
Then skim the document to locate the most important sections and read those next.
Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, move on to other things. Don’t feel like you need to read every word.
2. Skim the less important parts
This way of thinking can also be applied to shorter texts.
Say, for example, you have a client who always takes some time to get to the point in their emails. Adapt your reading to that style of writing and give most of your attention to the important parts.
You already unconsciously skip over parts of what you read. Start doing that with purpose, and you’ll save quite a bit of time.
3. Stop reading “aloud” in your head
When you learn to read, you start out by reading the words aloud, then silently in your head. In fact, if you stop to think about how you’re reading this text right now, you might realize that you’re still doing the very same thing. Reading in your head like that is called “subvocalizing.”
Now, subvocalizing is not bad. In fact, if you’re really focusing on a particularly difficult section of text, it can help you really comprehend what the words are conveying. However, subvocalizing slows you down. You probably know this from your everyday experience with reading anyway — when you’re engulfed in a book, that voice in your head is gone. You want to get ahead with text as fast as you can, and you stop subvocalizing.
That means you know how to do it. Just get into the habit of doing it more often.
4. Focus and ignore any distractions until you’ve finished
You know that feeling when you’ve already read a sentence four times and you have to read it again because you’re getting distracted? Isn’t that the worst? That’s one of the situations in which you can really feel how you’re wasting time by being inefficient with reading.
How do you combat that? Focus. If you know you have to read an article, turn off your phone and shut down notifications on your computer. Put on headphones or ear plugs if that helps. Getting into the mindset for reading helps put a stop to those distractions, but that’s easier said than done, so experiment with different environments and techniques to see what helps you focus more effectively.
5. Use a timer to track reading speed
If you are really serious about increasing your reading speed, start tracking it. This might sound a bit overzealous, but hear me out. The first point of tracking your time is quite simple — if you know you’re under pressure, you’ll perform better without even realizing it. Tracking something makes you try harder.
Reading is a skill like any other. It requires practice. Practice makes you better. So maybe turn that timer on and see how long a page takes you, and each time you read a whole page, try to improve on your previous record. It will get better over time.
Do you have any personal quick-reading techniques? We’d love to hear about them! For that and any other feedback, share in the comment section below…
Viktor Marinov is the voice behind the freelancer magazine, Freelancer Map. Every week he comes up with helpful hints, checklists, and guides for freelancers and independent workers. If you would like to know how to find remote jobs online or how to niche yourself as a freelancer, check out his freelancer tips!