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 wouldn't 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 tosses 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'll 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:
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 our aim here is to provide you with tools to allow you to adjust your reading rate depending on the circumstances.
Several days ago, I gave you a little diagram to help with reading critically. Notice the similarities as we discuss strategic reading:
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:
One of the most important concepts you should remember is that these steps are flexible. If you have relatively little time, move through them quickly.
So, let's say you only have 15 minutes for a 20 page paper. Try doing 1-6 quickly. Maybe there isn't time for that, try 1-3 or just 1 and 6 (if you're really short on time, just read the first sentence of each paragraph rather than the first and last).
I hope these tips help you glean from your reading the information you really need. They saved me in college, and I think you'll be surprised by how useful.
You will also enjoy:
Any other reading strategies that help you out? Let us know.