Reading Perspective To The Rescue

by Abby Marks Beale |


Are you overwhelmed by your reading workload? Do you feel frustrated, guilty and/or overwhelmed when you know there’s a pile of reading material waiting for you in your computer or on your desk (or night stand, kitchen counter, etc.)? Know you are not alone! With all the information available to read both on paper AND on-screen, it IS overwhelming, unless you begin to gain a realistic perspective and have a few powerful reading strategies in your pocket to apply when needed.

One simple place to start when tackling your ‘too high to read stack’ is to say to yourself “It’s only paper.” Don’t allow paper to make you feel guilty! If the reading material is on-screen, the same applies. “It’s only words on screen.” Learn to guiltlessly throw away/delete unwanted reading. You will thank yourself for doing this!

Gain Perspective

To help you gain a healthier perspective on the sheer quantity of material that exists from which to choose, take a look at these startling statistics:

  • The current number of titles of magazines available for you to pick from averages around 7,200. If you feel compelled to read them all, you’d have to read about 20 magazines per day! (Now doesn’t your pile look small?!)
  • The U.S prints an average of 175,000 titles of books PER YEAR and the average American reads just ONE book a year. Where do you fall in the average??
  • The average # of words in a large city daily newspaper (e.g. NY Times) is 72,000. This is about the same number of words in a regular size fiction novel. A Sunday edition of the same paper has the equivalent of 5 to 7 novel’s worth of words. Who has time to read it all?!
  • When you read on-screen, your reading speed goes DOWN an average of 25-30 percent. If you are an average reader with 250 words per minute, you are now down to about 187. That may be why you feel like you are reading on-screen all day.
  • According to Nielson, the average American watches FIVE HOURS of television per day. Imagine how much reading you could do if you only watched ONE hour, or NONE!

Ideally, what you are looking for is a QUALITY pile, NOT just QUANTITY. Pick from any or all of these strategies to help you achieve this goal:

Triage Your Reading Pile

Just like doctors in the emergency room, you too can prioritize your “patients” or reading material. On a piece of paper—or better yet, your computer—jot down each piece of reading material you receive for ONE WEEK both on paper AND on-screen. Include newspapers, magazines, professional journals, reports, newsletters, email newsletters, and so on. Using a scale between 1 and 10 (1 being low; 10 being high), rate each item’s value TO YOU, personally.

Any item whose value is under 6 should be deleted (or unsubscribed to) from your reading pile. If you have more patience, you can do this for a month. If you don’t have patience for even a week, then you could just take current inventory of your pile(s). This works just as well. HINT: If you have 5 or more unread back issues of any one enewsletter or publication, chances are you either don’t have time for it or don’t find value in it. Get rid of it, now!

Find More Time to Read

Now doesn’t that make sense?! You may be surprised to know that a quick reading speed is not the only way to get caught up. It’s those who devote an adequate amount of TIME to do their reading are the ones who are not haunted by their “to read stack.”

So where do you find more time? Always carry something to read with you as you never know when you’ll come upon an unused moment of time, maybe commuting or waiting for an appointment, where you might squeeze in some reading. Maybe scheduling time will be your best bet, just like making an appointment with yourself. Best bet may be to reduce TV time. If you start thinking about reading more, that alone may help you succeed in finding the time.

Using Skipping as a Reading Strategy

Using skipping as a reading strategy means to selectively choose which parts to read and which to leave out, based on your reasons for reading.

Ask yourself these questions: “WHY am I reading this?” and “WHAT do I need it for?” Some possible answers include “Because I have to, want to, or need to for my job, my interests, my curiosity, a test, my personal development and so on.” If you cannot effectively answer these questions (the more specifically the better), then you probably have no business reading it!

If you can establish your reasons for reading but the material has become redundant or unnecessary based on your needs, then you can confidently skip to a new sentence, article or even chapter.

The key to effective skipping is in choosing what you read, NOT what you leave out.Overcome your fear of missing material. There is more than enough reading material to last a lifetime—your job is to q-u-i-c-k-l-y find what is most valuable to you.

Abby Marks Beale is a speed reading expert and the creator of the Rev It Up Reading Online Course. She enjoys helping busy professionals read smarter, faster, and just plain better. She is author of several books including 10 Days to Faster Reading and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speed Reading.

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