CAREER ADVANCEMENT / NOV. 24, 2014
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How to Derive Maximum Benefits from Reading

Most people read a wide range of resources on a daily basis. This includes magazines, newspapers, books, articles and eBooks. However, many don’t gain much from the materials they read. The following are some tips which will help you derive maximum benefits from your reading:

1. Decide what you want to learn

Before you begin reading any material, think about why you are reading it in the first place. Is it just for pleasure or is there a deeper purpose? What exactly do you want to learn?

Once your purpose is clear, evaluate the material to ascertain if it will be helpful. For instance, you can easily assess a book by looking at its introduction and chapter headings. This will give you an idea of who the book targets and what is covered. Figure out if the resource will offer you the information you need. If you feel it would not offer much value, don’t waste time reading it.

This principle also applies to social media news feeds, online magazines and journals, and RSS feeds. Get rid of any resources that don’t meet your needs.

2. Know how deeply to study

When you only require shallow information on a subject, you could consider skimming the resource. This basically means reading the chapter headings, introductions and summaries.

In case you need moderate information, scanning the text would be appropriate. Besides reading the introductions and summaries, you could speed read the contents while taking note of important concepts and words. Remember to pay attention to any graphs, pictures or diagrams within the content.

When you require complete knowledge on a subject, take time to study the material in detail. After skimming the material to understand its structure, you can then go back and read it in its entirety.    

3. Read actively

Active reading is advisable when you are reading a resource in detail. This involves taking notes as you read, as well as underlining and highlighting important information. This enables you to focus on the material and shut out other distractions. In addition, it helps you retain the vital details in your mind.

4. Learn how to read different resources

Different types of resources offer varied information in different ways. In addition, they have varying breadths and depths of coverage. Here are some guidelines for reading different materials:

  • Newspapers and magazines – These usually focus on a narrow area of a subject. In many cases, they overlook less interesting information which might be helpful for complete understanding of a subject. The best way of reading magazines is to first look at the table of contents. If you see any interesting topics, turn directly to the relevant pages. If a piece is especially helpful, you could consider cutting it out and filing it in an appropriate folder. Newspapers usually have a standard arrangement. Establish which sections are helpful and learn what to ignore altogether.
  • Individual articles

Newspapers and magazines usually have three kinds of articles:

  • Opinion articles – This is where writers offer their point of view. For opinion articles, you can just read the introduction and summary, and then skim through the content
  • News articles – Such articles offer the highlights first, and then proceed to provide the less important details. This could be handled in a similar way to opinion articles
  • Feature articles – These articles are written to offer in-depth information on a subject. If you are interested in the subject, you should read the article in its entirety

The time of the day when you read will determine how much you will benefit. Resources which require a lot of concentration should be read when your energy levels are high. You should also consider where you read. Read in a place which is well lit, free from distractions and comfortable.

Image: Flickr, Abhi Sharma

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