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Reading with an edge

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White, glossy, newsprint—it all started as a tree and now languishes on desktops. Catalogs, magazines, and newsletters sit in heaps and spill over to the floor. Everywhere I go, folks are surrounded by paper. Brave souls invite me to see the lay of the land of their homes and offices. As we hike down halls and upstairs, stacks and piles reveal themselves: books, journals, and more reading material.

Why aren’t we keeping up with our reading? Abby Marks-Beale, founder of The Reading Edge, sites 5 reasons in her teleclass:

• Our reading skills are antiquated. Most people have had no formal reading training since learning to read in elementary school.
• Our attitude about reading needs improvement.
• The large volume of reading material.
• Perceived lack of time; yet studies show average American spends 170 minutes per day watching TV.
• Our basic human nature has limitations.

How can we get control of our reading? (Adapted from The Reading Edge)

1. Gather the various piles from around the house and sort by publication. For example, your stacks might include Sunset Magazine, Journal (of your profession), and Real Simple Magazine. Put books and ezines into their own piles too.

2. Assign a number value to each piece of reading material. Using numbers 1 – 10, (1 = no value, useless, time wasting; 10 = much value, informative, time useful) answer “How valuable is this to me?” It’s reasonable to skim the cover and table of contents to make decisions, but resist the urge to read full articles at this time. Clutter happens when we postpone decisions. Simply write a number on the publication with a bold marker (or use sticky notes on books).

3. Apply the quality over quantity principle. Any publications that you marked over a 6, keep. Any material under a 6, recycle and discontinue the subscription. If you’re swimming in magazines, don’t buy magazines on impulse at the check out stand.

4. Now that you’ve made a quality reading pile, assess how much time you spend reading. If you devote one hour a week to reading and your stack is ten publications high, you can take a speed reading course, or slash your reading stash with a heavier hand.

Now, how to increase our productivity when we read.

Do you have a habit of reading in bed? It’s cozy and comfy—maybe too comfy for serious reading. For reading that is work related, you’ll be more productive at a desk or table. If it’s pleasure reading, an easy chair/sofa/bed still works.

Read faster
Find out how fast you read at, as well as tips, books, and courses to improve your reading speed.

Eliminate distractions
We’ve all tried reading with the TV on. By its design, TV is both visual and auditory, leaving no resources to read with. Reading during commercial breaks of 8 minutes per half hour will not make a dent in the reading pile.

What about music? Most people find that music with words is distracting because the brain can only process so many words at one time. Your reading time will be less productive. However, music without words may improve concentration while reading. Recent studies have shown Mozart to be effective in boosting reading concentration and retention. Another option is piano or guitar music with a soothing beat.

Reading opens our lives up in ways that nothing else can. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones wrote: “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things, the people you meet and the books you read.”