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15 Ways To Help You Read More

15 Ways To Help You Read More

Are you able to get through all the reading you planned this year? Do you ever want to read more but don’t seem to have the time?

Here are 15 ways that help you read more this year.

1. Define Your Purpose for Reading

Before you start reading, ask yourself why are you reading this book. Most people read for two main reasons – pleasure or knowledge.

Being specific and clear about your reading purpose not only helps you to eliminate books that you don’t need to read. It also reminds you why reading the book is important to you as you are reading it. This motivates you to keep reading and complete the book faster.

2. Read Only What You Are Attracted to

Whether you are reading fiction or nonfiction, it’s important to enjoy what you read. Your friends may recommend books that they love, but those books might not necessarily be the ones you enjoy.

Don’t read for the sake of reading. Reading shouldn’t be another task in your to-do-list to be checked off. Reading books that you think you “should” read or which you think are good for you will slow down your reading process if you have no interest in it.

Instead, find books that spark your interest and curiosity. You’ll find yourself reading these books faster.

3. Feel Free to Skip Pages

When it comes to reading for personal pleasure and knowledge, you set your own rules. Don’t feel guilty about skipping pages. You don’t need to read all the pages in a book. It’s not cheating!

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In fact, skipping pages is more productive. It helps you move through boring or irrelevant parts quicker. You don’t waste time reading something that doesn’t serve you.

4. Give up Books That You Don’t Enjoy

You may have selected books that are aligned with your purpose. You may have selected books that you are attracted to. But as you are reading them, there may still be some books that you won’t enjoy reading.

Whenever you realize that you aren’t enjoying the book you are reading, give it up. Remember reading shouldn’t be a chore.

Giving up doesn’t mean that you are a quitter. Giving up books that you don’t enjoy reading actually frees up your time for books that you would enjoy.

5. Set a Reading Goal

Having a reading goal helps you figure out how much reading you need to do in a week or even a day.

For example, this year, my reading goal is to read 100 books. Since there are 52 weeks a year, each week I need to read at least 2 books. Having a reading goal allows me to strategize how much time I need to allocate each day for reading and it helps me to decide what information I need from each book.

Instead of dabbling in reading and hoping to find something useful to you, come prepared with a set of reading objectives. This helps you focus on specific parts of the book and find information that is useful to you when reading.

6. Give Yourself a Deadline to Complete Each Book

Before you read each book, ask yourself when you need to complete this book by.

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What I find interesting is that I tend to read books that I borrow from libraries faster than the books I bought. The reason is the books I bought don’t have a due date! I don’t need to return those books. So I can take as long as I want to read those books.

When you don’t set a deadline to complete your book. There isn’t a sense of urgency. And when something isn’t urgent, you tend to procrastinate and your books get left on the shelves untouched and unread. So setting a deadline is important.

7. Make Reading a Part of Your Daily Routine

If reading is important to you, no matter how busy you are, you will find and schedule time to read.

Making reading a part of your daily routine removes the hassle of finding time each day to read. Allocating a fixed time to read each day reduces procrastination. It’s also easier for others to know your reading schedule and not to disturb you when you are reading.

8. Prepare Your Reading List in Advance

To keep your reading momentum, always have the next book ready. Don’t wait untill you have completed all your books, then find the next book to read. You’ll waste unnecessary time trying to find the next book.

Instead, prepare a reading list in advance. List all the books you want to read. Add books that are recommended by your friends and family. Go to your local bookstores and see what intrigues you. You can also find a list of recommended books suggested by bloggers on their websites.

9. Use Your Free Time

Reading in the morning before you start your work or reading at night when you are winding down are the best times to read. At these time, you won’t get caught up in the daily distractions that interrupt your reading.

However, if you want to maximize your reading time, try carrying a book with you wherever you go. There will be times during the day when you are free or waiting in queue. Use this time to catch up on your reading.

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10. Find a Quiet Place

Reading requires focus and concentration. If possible, find a quiet place to read.

Reading in a quiet environment increases your comprehension. You don’t get disrupted by external noises. You don’t have to reread previous pages and paragraphs to recall what you have just read.

So choose a good environment in which to read. Switch off your phone or put it away. Close your door if necessary. You read more in one hour of focused reading than in three hours of interrupted reading.

11. Get Some Context First, If Possible

Sometimes, if you watch the trailer, read the synopsis or follow some of the online content that the author has been providing, you are able to get into the author’s world much faster.

You won’t have to spend as much time establishing the context or understanding the characters in the beginning.

12. Read for Meaning, Not Words

Have you experienced times when you are just reading words, but not comprehending anything that the book says?

Reading a book word by word isn’t an effective way to read. Some words such as “a”, “an” and “the” don’t add any meaning to what you read. Your brain is smarter than you think it is. With just a few important words, your brain can devise meanings and comprehend what the author is saying by tapping on your prior knowledge and experience.

Furthermore, reading word by word is boring unless you are reading to appreciate the author’s use of language. Instead, allow your eyes to scan the page and pick up words that help you form meanings.

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13. Read in Layers

Reading in layers is especially useful for nonfiction readers. Instead of reading your book once through in detail, read your book with multiple passes. 

So for example, your first pass could be just browsing the book, reading the content page and some of the headers to get the overall big picture first. Then your second pass could be selecting specific sections of the book you need more detail in and zooming in on them.

Before you start each pass, decide if you need more detail. Sometimes, you are able to comprehend the information without needing to read the examples. Other times, some information might not apply to you now. So you don’t need to read everything in detail.

14. Keep an Open Mind While Reading

Don’t critique the author while you are reading the book. Arguing with the author as you read lowers your comprehension. You can always disagree with the author after you have completed the book.

Also, spotting grammar and spelling mistakes while you read slows down your reading process. Although constant bad grammar could affect your reading, small grammar and spelling mistakes hardly affect your comprehension at all.

Again, ask yourself what the purpose of reading this book is. Are you reading for pleasure and knowledge or are you reading to proofread or critique the book?

15. Read Several Books At a Time

This sounds counterproductive. But it works well if you are doing research or want to accumulate knowledge on a topic fast.

When I was writing my book, Fearless Passion, I read several books about passion at the same time. Some books have similar information. I just picked one book that clearly explained the information I needed and skipped the rest. Reading several books at once also allows me to receive different points of view on the same topic quicker.

Even if you are reading fiction books, you can also read books in the same series at the same time. That will help you retain information about the plot and characters.

Featured photo credit: Waiting and Reading at Bryant Park / Jens Schott Knudsen via flickr.com

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Yong Kang Chan

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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