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The Ultimate Holiday Gift (and How to Give and Receive It)

The Ultimate Holiday Gift (and How to Give and Receive It)
    This gift is better to give AND receive.

    We’re only a few days away from Christmas, and while not everyone celebrates that particular holiday, this time of year is a cause for celebration for many all over the world. It’s a time for reflection, a time for companionship and a time for giving.

    The Western world tends to get really caught up in the giving part — or more accurately, the receiving part. That’s not something that can be deterred easily. Getting people to be more into the giving than receiving is a tough sell. It can be done, but it takes a lot on the part of many to break through.

    But what if that sell could be much easier? What if I told you that the one giving the gift could also receive the same gift in kind — and yet it would be completely different than the one they gave? Better still, what if I told you that this gift is the ultimate holiday gift?

    Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll tell you.

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    The ultimate holiday gift is attention.

    How is attention the ultimate holiday gift?

    • Attention is valuable, but only if it is paid.
    • Attention is free, but also has a price.
    • Attention is short-term, but can have long-term impact.

    The Value of Attention

    When you pay attention to someone or to something, you add value to it. Whether it is a family member or friend, a piece of software or a work project — when you give it your full attention it increases in value. And not just for the person or “thing” receiving it. You receive the value as well.

    That value can be returned in knowledge, expertise, love, gratitude and — yes — even monetarily. The key to determining the value rests in how much of your attention you give. The more you give, the more you get.

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    How do you give more attention? By connecting and disconnecting. Connect as fully as possible with the person or thing you want to give attention to and disconnect from everything else. This doesn’t need to — and shouldn’t — be permanent. But it does need to happen in those moments.

    The currency of attention is time. How much you want to spend is up to you, but remember that quality is always more valuable than quantity when you’re dealing with “time economics”.

    The Freedom of Attention

    Attention can be given and taken freely. It can also be applied when giving gifts other than attention.

    For example, you can start planning now — or giving attention to — those who you want to give gifts to next holiday season. Rather than wait until it must have your attention (and likely less than full attention at that), you can take small moments to build up the list of people and corresponding gifts throughout the year. This means you’ll be better prepared going into next year and don’t need to focus on holiday shopping in the six weeks leading up to Christmas. It also means you won’t forget anyone that might not make the cut due to simple forgetfulness or a constrained budget.

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    The end result is a less stressful holiday season, which is better for everyone. And you’re able to do that by giving attention to a list like this over a longer timespan and taking your attention away from it whenever you want because you’re on top of it.

    The Span of Attention

    Even when you offer your attention for a short period of time, the effects of that full attentiveness can have a big impact over the long term.

    You may work really hard on a small project and leave everything else in the dust over a 2 week period. Then when the project is finished you move your attention back to other things while that project begins to live a life of its own. A book that you might decide to write and self-publish or an app you’ve developed would be perfect examples. As these items sell, you’ll make money over the long-term because they have a longer shelf life than the time you spent giving them your utmost attention.

    Relationships can benefit from both short and long term attention. Client relationships for small projects may only last a few weeks, but they’ll have a lasting impact on both them and your reputation. Longer term relationships with family and friends can be handled by giving attention to the little things (occasional phone calls/emails, connecting on social networks, etc.) and also the larger things. But the bottom line is that in order to have a give and take happening with attention, you need to be as fully engaged as possible.

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    The Power of Attention

    Attention is the ultimate gift, but it is also the hardest one for many of us to offer. In a world where our attention can be easily taken away from us and to things and people that don’t warrant it, we must actually pay attention to, well…attention.

    Which means that attention is the ultimate gift you can give not just to others, but to yourself as well.

    I’m wondering how many of you were able to give this piece your full attention while reading it. Did you shift away from it? Was it because I couldn’t hold your attention or that you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give it? I’d be interested to know in the comments.

    (Photo credit: Christmas. Gift woman showing beautiful red gift box. via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on November 12, 2020

    What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

    What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

    You have so many books waiting for your attention, but you just don’t have enough time! Don’t you wish you could read faster without compromising your knowledge intake? This is where a valuable learning technique comes to the rescue: speed reading.

    Speed reading is the top skill to learn in 2020. Read on to find out all about this amazing technique!

    What Is Speed Reading?

    On average, an adult can read somewhere between 200 to 300 words per minute. With speed reading skills, you can read much fasteraround 1500 words per minute.[1] Yes, that sounds impossible, but it’s true.

    In order to understand how this skill works, you first need to know how the reading process works inside a human’s brain.

    The Reading Process

    The first step is for the eyes to look at a word. This “fixation” on every word takes around 0.25 seconds.

    Next, you start moving your eyes to the following word. It takes 0.1 seconds for the brain to move from one word to the next. This is called “saccade.”

    Usually, you take in 4-5 words in your head, or a sentence, at once. After all the fixations and saccades, the brain goes over the entire phrase again in order to process the meaning. This takes around half a second.

    All in all, this means average people read 200 to 300 words in a minute.

    Speeding up the Process

    The concept of speed reading is to speed up this process by at least 5 times. Since the saccade period cannot be shortened any further, speed reading emphasizes quicker fixations.

    To accomplish this, scientists recommend that the reader skips the sub-vocalization: when the readers actually say the word in their mind, even when reading silently.

    Basically, speed reading is the technique of only seeing the words instead of speaking them silently.

    Do not confuse this with skimming. When a reader skims through a text, they skip the parts that their brain considers to be unnecessary. You may skip important information in this process, and skimming does not allow the brain to retain what has been read.

    Why Speed Read?

    Speed reading is not just quick, but it’s also effective. This skill saves a lot of of time without sacrificing information.

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    Also, it has been proven to improve memory. The brain’s performance improves during speed reading, which allows the reader to remember more information than before[2].

    Since speed reading stabilizes the brain, the information is processed faster and more efficiently.

    Believe it or not, this technique leads to improved focus, too. As the brain receives a lot of information during speed reading, there is far less chance of distraction. The brain focuses solely on the job at hand.

    Since the brain is, after all, a muscle, the process of speed reading acts as an exercise. Just like the rest of your muscles, your brain needs exercise to grow stronger, too.

    A focused brain means improved logical thinking. As your brain gets used to receiving and organizing so much information so quickly, your thinking process will become faster. As soon as a problem is thrown at you, your brain will quickly put two and two together. You will be able to retrieve stored information, figure out correlations, and come up with new solutions, all within seconds!

    Still not convinced? Read 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn Speed Reading

    Greater Benefits

    With a healthier brain, you can expect better things in other parts of your life, too. A boost in self-esteem is just one of them.

    As you begin to understand information at a faster pace, you will also begin to figure out more opportunities all around you.

    With the ability to deeply understand information in a shorter period of time, your confidence levels will quickly grow.

    Moreover, all the aforementioned benefits will relieve you of stress. With all these advantages, your emotional well-being will be healthier than ever. You’ll feel less stress since your brain will learn to tackle problems efficiently. Speed reading will lead to a relaxed, tension-free lifestyle!

    How to Learn to Speed Read

    Speed reading is a superpower. Fortunately, unlike other superpowers, this one can be learned!

    There are different techniques that can be used to master this skill. Opt for the one that best suits your learning style.

    1. The Pointer Method

    The person who is credited for popularizing speed reading, Evelyn Wood, came up with the pointer method. It is a simple technique in which the reader uses their index finger to slide across the text that they’re reading.

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    As the finger moves, the brain coherently moves along with it. It is an effective technique to keep the eyes focused where the finger goes without causing any distraction.

    Readers have a tendency to back-skip. The pointer method prevents this from happening, thereby saving at least half the reading time.

    2. The Scanning Method

    In this technique, the reader’s eyes move along one part of the page only. This can be the left or right side of the text but is usually the center since that is the most convenient.

    Instead of pacing through the entire text from left to right, the vision shifts from top to bottom.

    This method involves fixation on keywords, such as names, figures, or other specific terms. By doing so, the saccade time is minimized.

    3. Perceptual Expansion

    Generally, a reader focuses on one word at a time. This technique, on the other hand, encourages the brain to read a chunk of words together. In doing so, this method increases the reader’s peripheral vision.

    Here’s the thing: even though the fixation time remains the same with perceptual expansion, the number of words that the eyes fixate on increases.

    Basically, the brain receives 5 times more information within the same amount of time.

    This technique is the hardest to master and takes the most time to learn. You’ll need help from speed reading tools in order to practice the perceptual expansion method.

    However, once you master it, this technique will offer you the fastest reading pace with the maximum knowledge intake.

    The Best Speed Reading Apps

    The easiest tool to aid any process in any part of life these days is your smartphone.

    You can use mobile applications to learn speed reading on the go. It has been proven that regularly practicing speed reading is the fastest way to learn this skill.[3]

    Here are a few great options to look into:

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    1. Reedy

    If you own an Android smartphone, you can download Reedy to your mobile. Otherwise, get the Chrome extension on your laptop to enjoy speed reading with Reedy.

    This app trains readers to read faster by displaying words one by one on the screen. Instead of having to go through lines or long texts, Reedy prepares the user to focus on one word at a time.

    Although this isn’t an effective method to learn speed reading long texts, it is a great way to start.

    2. ReadMe!

    Whether you’re an android or iOS user, you can take advantage of the ReadMe! application. This app even comes with some e-book options to practice speed reading on.

    Start by choosing your desired font size, color, layout, etc. Other than that, there are different reading modes for the user to choose from.

     

    If you want to practice reading sentence by sentence or in short paragraphs, you can choose the focused reading mode.

    The beeline reader mode changes the color of the text to guide the eye to read from the beginning to the end at a certain pace.

    Lastly, there is the spritz mode in which the app focuses on chunks of words at once. This controls the reader’s peripheral vision. However, this mode is not fully available in the free version of the app.

    3. Spreeder

    Spreeder is available on both iOS and Android. However, users may also gain benefits from Spreeder’s website. This application lets the reader paste in any text that they would like to speed read.

    Starting off at a rather low speed, the app flashes words one by one. Gradually, as the user becomes more comfortable, the speed increases.

    Slowly, the user is trained to speed read without having to skip any words.

    This app is different from the rest because it tracks the user’s reading improvements, recording the overall reading time and speed.

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    The Controversy Surrounding Speed Reading

    Truthfully, speed reading does sound too good to be true. It’s hard to believe that it is humanly possible to attain such a fast pace without compromising the quality of information you receive.

    Perhaps as a result, there are people who do not trust the process of speed reading. They believe that when you read through a text at such a high speed, speed readers cannot develop good comprehension.

    It is true that speed reading will be of no use if you do not understand the text you’re reading, no matter how quickly you did it.

    Similarly, if you were to read slowly and still not retain or understand the information you read, that would be useless, too.

    However, there are a few factors to consider here. When reading at a normal pace, there is enough time in between every step of the process for the brain to get distracted.

    Conversely, speed reading leaves behind no time for the brain to focus on something else. It is unlike skimming. No part of the text is skipped, which means that the brain receives every single bit of information.

    If you’re still not convinced, take a look at this video to learn about reading faster:

    Conclusion

    Keeping all of this in mind, speed reading cannot be labeled a hoax or a failure. Science has backed up this technique, and numerous readers have been using this skill to improve their learning ability and reading comprehension, even when reading for pleasure.

    At the end of the day, it is your decision whether or not you want to trust this process.

    However, if you decide to take advantage of the opportunities speed reading provides, you will find a world of possibilities opening up to you.

    We live in a fast-paced world. Consuming information faster will help you keep up with that pace and find further success.

    More on How to Read Faster

    Featured photo credit: Blaz Photo via unsplash.com

    Reference

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