The Key to Effective Reading

The habit of learning is essential for your success. And – as have been the case for centuries – one of the main methods of learning is reading. Many great people in history are avid readers.

The question is: how can we read more effectively?

Unfortunately, there is a common misconception here. The misconception is this:

To read effectively, you must read fast.

The focus here is speed. The assumption is that the faster you read, the better. Why? Because you can then consume more information in the same amount of time.

This advice, however, is misleading. Sure, being fast could be helpful, but it’s not the key to effective reading.

What is the key then?

The key to effective reading is the ability to select the right stuff to read. The important thing is not your speed, but your selection. It’s to read smarter, not faster.

There is good advice in Extreme Productivity:

Don’t aim to read more words per minute, instead aim to read fewer words.

It might sound counterintuitive, but what it means is that you should read selectively. Rather than reading more books, you should read the right books. Rather than reading entire books, you should read the right parts within the books.

To do that, you must first know your objectives. You must first know what it is you are trying to achieve.

Knowing your objectives is important because it helps you assess the value of a reading material. It helps you assess whether something is relevant to you or not. It becomes the basis for your selection.

When reading the story of Andrew Carnegie, for instance, my objective was to find practical lessons that I can apply to my life.

With that objective in mind, I could pay more attention to the parts that are relevant and just skip those that aren’t. I spent less time reading, but I got more value out of it.

The next time you read something for the purpose of learning, aim to read smarter, not faster. Aim to get more value in less time. You will then become an effective learner.

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