In today’s world, handheld devices, instant messengers and other similar types of distractions, make it very hard to maintain a strong focus while reading.
Now, I know what you are going to say:
“But my device is the best thing that’s ever happened to me asides from discovering your super awesome blog posts Joe!!!”
Regardless, I urge you to put aside your bias towards my awesomeness, and take the time to take into consideration the following tips. You’ll thank me later.
- Turn off the instant messengers, cell phone, and email notifiers.
This is a big one for most of us because we have come to rely so heavily on these services, but they are some of the biggest distractions that exist today. If you are like me, then you probably feel a little mental nudge each time your email notifier or text messaging indicator goes off. The problem with these nudges is that they can cause us to lose the momentum we have built when we are performing the task of reading. It takes our brain a little bit of time to ramp up and zone in on the material we are reading. Every time we receive an interruption, our brain immediately ramps down and needs to ramp back up again. This can cause a number of reading related inefficiencies. Most importantly, it can lower our ability to focus on the information we are trying to retain.
- Practice proper posture.
Did you know that it takes more energy to slouch then it does to sit with proper form? When you sit, push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair. Make an adjustment to your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal or a little lower than your hips. Adjust the back of your chair to about a 100° reclined angle. Make sure that you are also getting proper support for your entire back. Taking these steps will not only improve your ability to focus while you are reading, they will also prevent long term issues related to poor posture.
- Clear your mind for 1 minute.
You’ve probably heard about all the benefits you can get from practicing meditation regularly. Ideally we would want to read after a good meditation session because that is when our mind is most likely to be free from mental clutter. Since we don’t always get the luxury of good mediation before reading, we should take about 1 to 2 minutes to relax and release thoughts from our mind before we begin to read. By doing this, you will not only free up unnecessary resources in your brain, you will also be able to comprehend the information you read much better. You will be able to enjoy a higher level of focus when you read.
- Read in 50-minute intervals.
Peter Drucker who is my opinion the father of business management, talks about in his book “The Effective Executive”, how 50 minute chunks of time is ideal for focusing on a single task. This is because 50 minutes is the ideal amount of time to focus on one item before we start to require a break. Something happens after we go beyond the 50 minute mark. Our brain starts to become more inefficient. It’s then time for a 10 minute break. After the break, you can focus on reading for another 50 minutes. By using this cycle, not only will you get the most out of reading, you will also be able to train your focus and develop the habit of working at a specific pace.
- Read with a Specific Goal in Mind
Don’t mindlessly read things. You should have a specific goal in mind. This will not only improve your focus, but will also help you get through the material more quickly. The more specific your goal is, the easier it will be to concentrate.
As simple as these tips might sound, they can make the world of difference for positively impacting your ability to focus while reading. Practicing these tips will not only improve your reading, they will also help you build better focus involving other areas of your life. Implement these tips regularly to begin forming the habit of improved focus, and you will then be able to comprehend and retain the information you are reading a lot better.
Joseph is an Iris instructor based out of Toronto. He loves to share his personal knowledge as an entrepreneur, and credits a lot of his success to speed reading techniques and productivity strategies.