I put off reading things sometimes, because it’s just too hard. I procrastinate. I remember through school being forced to sit in a circle and read the school based Readers Digest. Then through High School English Literature being forced to read A Tale of Two Cities (My mind still sees/hears “A Tale of Two Titties”). I guess it’s put me off reading in detail, of analysing the prose, digesting it, contemplating it.
But in a busy world, we need to process information quickly; we need to assess the importance of information as quick as we can, to decide whether we want to digest it further. (Goodness it sounds like I’m going to eat it doesn’t it?)
But this skill can be used to assess email priorities, newsletters, meeting agenda etc. Now I’m not saying it replaces the actual digestion but it enables you to prioritise your reading time.
Some Simple Steps
Learn the art of scanning.
Our mind mature mind has the amazing ability to fill in the gaps. Just take those clever, crazy number plates or texting abbreviations that everyone likes to use. If you can teach your eye to float over sentences looking for key words, you’ll get the general gist or context of the information. Take a look at this text:
He knew the moment he walked into the singles bar it was a bad idea. If you’ve been to one singles bar, you’ve been to them all. Yet, it was the flaming red hair of the woman in the corner that caught his eye and only then did he realise how big his mistake was. Surely that wasn’t his brand new boss?
By just taking in the key words, you are allowing your brain to fill in the gaps. In fact, your eye can take in about 3 or 4cm so you don’t need to focus on each word at time, you are probably more likely to be able to take in up to 5 words. It’s really a way of engaging your peripheral vision more, it’s a soft eye technique (not to be confused with a lazy eye).
Read the first Line.
This is not my favourite technique but it is another good one. You can read the first few words of a paragraph and the last words or sentence. You can scan read headings of a document or email newsletter, it will give you the general idea.
Tell your internal voice to “Zip it!”
My primary years must be haunting me but I can remember having to read aloud, word for word, the contents of my book; a painful and embarrassing experience for some. Or I remember sitting in class, the teacher, beautifully and with such expression, reading the story with expression and poetic pause. And so, we become used to hearing the words, so much so, that reading to ourselves we have the voice dramatise the words on the page. Stop it, turn off the voice, hear it in a monotone or sequence of brief words, skip and jump across that page! You can do it! You can actually understand the words QUICKER than you can say them. If you want to luxuriate over the lusciousness of your prose, by all means, take your time but otherwise, silence that voice and jump on through it.
Follow the bouncing ball.
It’s not exactly a speed reading technique but it is a way of ensuring the reading process doesn’t slow down. If you find that you are reading something complex and it takes you a few times to read a sentence over and over, follow your reading with a pencil, book mark or ruler. It helps your eyes to focus on the words and not accidently read a line more than once. This is a good technique when you are required to study, understand or learn from the reading. I guess, one good kick back from those primary school reading years is the technique of reading with the ruler under the text.
I’m sorry, what? What did I just read? – Get rid of those distractions!
I once asked one of the most organised CEO’s that I knew, what were his techniques for staying on top of his work? One of the great tips he shared was that he would dedicate a whole day to reading. No phone calls, no meetings, no interruptions. He would use this time to read industry documents, meeting minutes etc. It was an economical use of his time but most importantly he eliminated the distractions. Don’t try and read something while watching TV! Just don’t.
So why am I here? Key word searches.
If you’re looking for a key point of information and you are reading in a digital format, then for the love of god, use the search function. A blog on a website, a pdf, they all enable you to search key words. Alternatively, allow your brain to be the search function and seek out key phrases, terms, words or terminology to help you pull out the key information rather than reading the whole document word for word.
Obviously these speed reading techniques are not something you should rest on rely on all the time, however it can give you the opportunity to quickly assess information to be able to prioritise your reading workload, or it can give you the opportunity to decide if the document you are about to read has some value or worth for you to read properly in full.
If you’ve found a good technique for speed reading, please share in the comments below.
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About the Author:
Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a Time Management Expert and Stress Management Practitioner based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in stressful, time precious industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for making sense of things. She seeks knowledge around systems, processes, gadgets, apps and stationary for whatever will organise the working world. Barbara is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional clarity. Barbara’s professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care and Health Services. For more information visit www.timetamer.com.au or follow Barbara on twitter @barbclifford.
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Ben says, most people believe when you have high energy you must do stuff you love. And when you have low energy you should do tasks you don’t really like. However, the problem with that is doing the task you least like when in low energy causes you to have a higher level of resistance and the task will take a longer time to finish!Whenever you have low energy, schedule in stuff that you love! Doing this would in fact raise your energy because energy is infinite when you recognize the source!
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What tricks and methods do you use to create more time? Leave your comment below.
The hospitality industry is a great source of study for skill sets in quality management, time management, efficiency and productivity. I stumbled across this study and found it absolutely fascinating.
What a difference 10 years and technology can make to the standards of productivity!
All of us at some time or another have had the experience of too much to do and the feeling that there’s not going to be enough time to do it. Or perhaps this is a regular feeling. All of us experience this at some point and it’s an uncomfortable and stressful feeling. And what is stress? Is it anxiety; feeling anxious? Is it a feeling of powerlessness? Or is it a buzz of living on the edge? When something feels unpleasant, the we are drawn to fix it and that leads to the question What causes “overwhelm”?
What causes us to become overwhelmed?
For me personally, it’s that sinking feeling. I’ve reached my limits and now I’m in out of control. It’s the fear that everything is of highest priority, of the upmost importance and key things are going to be forgotten. I feel like I am drowning, submerged, buried, stretched too far. Do these words sound familiar?
1. Constantly worrying. Having things swimming around in your head with a system, a list or something to provide clarity.
1. “Chunk it up”. This is a term to trump card your task. Raise it up a level. So what that means is, ask your self “Why am I doing this task?” Then ask again “And why is that important?” Then ask again “And why is that important” so you end up with key categories of “why”. What’s the main objective here? What’s the big picture?
2. Are those tasks grouped into those higher reasons?
3. Put the list in order of priority including the baby steps.
4. Take out the wish list things. Make sure you have lists that can be placed elsewhere “Research, Reference, Waiting on, To File”.
5. Create a list for the day that is more than achievable rather than reaching for a goal in a hope and a prayer. Better to under promise to yourself than over promise.
I remember working in a high responsibility, stressful job and coming back after a weeks holiday. It took me a day and a half to sort through my emails. I timed myself from that point forward. Nearly 2 hours per day sorting, deleting, filing, actioning, forwarding emails!
I decided there and then to find a process, a system to manage my emails more efficiently.
If you’re using Outlook, Turn off your Desktop Alerts
It can be so distracting. You brain is focused on a task at hand and suddenly a little alert pops up on the edge of your computer. It’s a evil distraction, a teaser, begging, “Read me! Read me”. Follow these microsoft instructions to turn off desktop alerts.
Instead, what you can do is create a custom alert in your Rules Wizard in Outlook to notify you when the VIP’s email you. The people you want to stop work for and pay attention to.
I love the rules wizard. I also us it to autofile my emails as they come in. For example I have folders that are labelled “Newsletters, Internal, Marketing, Clients, Contractors and Personal” to name a few. As soon as email come in, they are automatically filed. This helps me to prioritise my work. I can tell you, the newsletter folder builds and builds but doing this enables me to pick and choose what I read and when rather than it distracting me and dominating my time.
You can also use similar features in gmail and yahoo. These tools are called filters or filtered views. While it does not file emails into folders it does allow you to view emails by categories. For example, I subscribe to ebay alerts. I’m a bit addicted to ebay shopping and get roughly 15 emails a day! If I can, I read them, if I can’t I delete them. A filtered view enables me to select in bulk and delete in bulk. Categories you might use at home are “Family, Shopping, Newsletters, Kids or School, Name of your Club or group”.
Really your inbox should be empty. You should be able to move things out of it and action it. Don’t be afraid to delete either. Although I do find that using the flag function in outlook allows me to be reminded of emails I need to follow up on.
Otherwise you should be adding action items that YOU need to do, to your “To Do List” and get them out of your inbox.
Here are some quick tips to taking control of your email:
- Stop Peeking at Your Email – If you’re going to action it, read it. Otherwise leave it alone. Turning of the Auto alerts will certainly help this.
- Avoid using your Inbox as a To Do List – File your emails, add actions to your to do list and move on! Empty that In Box.
- File Reference Emails – File important emails where you can find them again. You can actually save emails into a folder. Alternatively you can print them. Copy and paste important small info into the notes section of outlook or other software. (Evernote is great for this)
- Don’t Be Afraid to Delete – Some email wasn’t meant to be kept. .
- Unsubscribe – Take just a few seconds to stop this re-occurring irritation. All email newsletters these days have an unsubscribe option somewhere. Take just a few seconds to remove something that over time will build up and consume your inbox.
Providing you with an custom email organising solution is part of the service offered by the Time Tamer. Within 3 hours, you can have your own custom designed system to reduce hours of email chaos and reduce risk of important emails being forgotten or lost.
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I recently discovered this amazing principle on how to take advantage of the spare time you have in your day and increase your productivity. A simple yet powerful method of putting more hours into your day.
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