Find an extra 60 Minutes a Day, Part One: Read Faster


If you’re like most of us, every work day feels like a race – one that you can never win. If you’re never able to clear your to-do list by the end of the day (and feeling stressed about it) this is the first in a series on how to gain a few minutes every day.

Use those extra minutes to finish tasks, empty your email inbox, organize projects, or anything else that will give you a sense of being on top of your job.

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Read more quickly – skim articles instead of reading for comprehension. If your job requires reading business documents or periodicals, you can speed up the process and gain minutes that you can spend on more demanding projects.  There’s a science to reading more quickly, and you can master it easily.

First, choose a digital copy whenever you can. You can highlight important sections or cut and paste them into Evernote or another system that will allow you to refer to them later.

Decide what you want to learn or retain from the document. Then scan the headers of each section to determine where the important points are discussed. It’s okay to start with the most vital information (to you) and sample the rest of the document. If time runs out, you’ll at least have read the most critical part. Note that this requires that you actually understand what is most important to your project or your boss.  If this critical thinking process is challenging for you, you may need to read the whole document. You can always ask your boss or the project lead what information is most important; in time, you’ll develop the instincts you need.

Read the first few paragraphs or first section thoroughly. This part of the article will outline the main idea or important points  – assuming that the article is written competently. It’s a mini version of the executive summary, and should include mentions of data sources and methodology. You should be able to get the gist of the article here.

Next, skim the headers and the first few lines of each section. Always examine graphics that accompany the text – they will give you quick insight into important data, and you’ll grasp the concept more quickly than reading through words that make the case.  Look for the important reporting words: who what when, how, where, and why. Key in on sentences that contain these words.

Be on the lookout for typographical cues that something is important: italics, bold type, and quotation marks. Let your eyes be drawn to any numbers in the text – they usually signal important points to support the main concepts.

Skimming will speed up your reading to 1,000 words a minute. Jot down or mark in some way the most important points you want to retain (you can also use Evernote or another application. Jot down the page number as well, so you can go back and re-read or cite the data easily.

Skimming will make you a faster and more efficient reader, and taking notes will allow you to be more efficient with your retention. You’ll spend less time looking for that great story or fact you read somewhere last week.

More time to spend on more important projects.

Do you have an efficiency tip to share? Leave a comment.

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