I wasn’t expecting it to explode like that.
Have you ever made a goal, then become so absorbed in it that you surpass your goal by miles? That was me and reading.
A year ago I was not a reader, but in January I wrote a post about how awesome reading is for you, and I shared my goal of reading 12 books in 2015. I had a huge to-read list, and jumped right in.
It’s been less than six months, and I’ve already read 17! I’m not stopping at 17, though. I’m going to up my game! I read a lot of books this spring, and I’ve learned that there are certain things I can do to get the most out of each book.
Here are nine ways to read smarter:
- Have a purpose for your reading. Start a book with a reason, not just to pass time or check a book off your list. You’ll be able to narrow your focus and remember the information you need if you know your goal for each book.
- Atmosphere is important. Read in a spot that allows you to concentrate and relax. I read best when I’m alone in a quiet environment, but you might love reading at a busy coffee shop with your earbuds in. Figure out what atmosphere gets you in the reading groove and make it a priority!
- Skim the material before jumping in. Read slowly over the table of contents. Take mental notes of bolded words, headings, charts, and context. This primes your brain and helps you remember important information.
- Look up words or ideas you aren’t familiar with. Have you ever formulated your own definition of a word you read, plowed ahead in your reading, then found out later that your definition was completely wrong? Yeah, me too. Taking that extra time to look up new words ensures that you understand what you’re reading, plus it increases your vocabulary.
- Mark your books! (Unless you’re reading someone else’s book, of course.) I know it goes against everything you learned growing up, but marking your books makes for easy retrieval or review of information. I find the simple action of highlighting or underlining also helps to solidify the information in my mind.
- Get a friend involved. Read or discuss the book with someone else. This spring I found myself halfway through Grace for the Good Girl and riding in the car with my mom. I had sticky notes waving at me all through the book, so I flipped to each one and discussed the points with her. She had some valuable insights, and the exercise of summarizing and verbalizing my thoughts and feelings caused me to learn much more than I could from simply reading the book.
- Know the author before reading. Research their background and beliefs when they wrote the book. This helps you correctly interpret the book and understand the author’s biases and credibility.
- Write actionable steps as you read. Writing them out will force you to think through how you’re going to put your knowledge into action instead of just having a fleeting idea and forgetting about it. As I read Visioneering by Andy Stanley this spring, action steps kept popping into my head and I took a few seconds to scribble them down on my bookmark. I am so glad I did, because by the end of the book, I had a whole list of ways to act on what I learned and I was able to dive right into their implementation.
- Only finish books worth finishing. If it’s not worth your time, try a different one! This is a hard for me because I don’t like to abandon projects halfway through. But the reality is, if you’re at chapter four and haven’t found any useful information… you’re wasting your time.
Read those books slowly. Think critically. Be intentional about your reading. Are you ready to read like a genius? Let’s hit the books!
What are some smart reading tips you’ve discovered?
Ariel Abke is an Unbound student who is working on her BA in English. She loves natural living, the outdoors, working out, learning about Jesus, encouraging others in Him, and writing on her blog.Read more by Ariel