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3 Steps to Read a Book Every Day

3 Steps to Read a Book Every Day

The universal reason people give for not reading is that they don’t have time. Since most people read around 200 words per minute (wpm), about as quickly as they speak, most people can take a week or two to finish one book. If you’re only finishing a book every few weeks, it hardly seems like a good use of time.

Luckily, anyone can learn to read a book every day. If you could read 5 times faster, you could theoretically get through 5 times as many books. You could learn new things much quicker, be more cultured, get through the news quicker in the morning, and more.

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The problem with normal speed reading is that it can be very hard to apply above certain speeds. You have to turn pages, or wait for them to shift on your e-reader, and moving your eyes around the page slows you down. But there’s an excellent solution that I use to get through a new book every day or two.

Step One: Learn to Speed Read

First you need to start training yourself to speed read. The easiest way is to simply start using Spreeder to practice (I’m not affiliated with them in any way). They have a few articles on how to speed read most effectively, but it can be distilled to these main points:

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  • Don’t speak the words as you read them. You can read faster than you can speak, so mouthing each word as you go slows you down.
  • Don’t try to read each word in your head, but rather create a mental picture of the overarching message being conveyed. Your mind also has a speed limit for speaking individual words.
  • Keep your eyes fixed on the center of the page and read from your peripheral vision. Be sure that you’re far enough from your screen for this to work.
  • You don’t remember everything perfectly when you read slowly, so don’t expect to remember everything perfectly when you speed read.

When you use Spreeder, start the application at 250 wpm. That’s a little above the 200 wpm rate that most people read at. As soon as you feel comfortable, add another 50-100 wpm. Keep going up in increments until you hit a ceiling that’s hard to get through–after a couple hours of practice I was able to hit 1,000 wpm.

The important thing is to not only increase your wpm, but also your chunk size. This means reading 2, 3, or 4 words at a time instead of just 1. Trying to read just one word at a time at 1,000 wpm is very difficult, but when there are 3 words it’s not so bad. You’ll learn to absorb blocks of text at a time instead of specific words. When you can get to 4 or 5 word chunks, you’ll be able to read most book pages in 2 or 3 chunks, which means you have to move your eyes significantly less than if you were reading each word individually.

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Step Two: Find Reading Materials

To use Spreeder, you need plain text that you can copy in to the application. This is can be kind of tricky. Amazon has heavy digital rights management (DRM) on their books, as does Barnes and Noble, so you can’t simple open the file up in Notepad and copy the text. There are a ton of free books online that are out of copyright (meaning they were published before 1942), and there are also places you can buy books in formats that are easily convertible to text (such as PDFs).

However you get the texts converted to plain text, make sure you are doing so legally. Piracy is illegal, and unfair to the author who spent his time and energy creating the book.

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Step Three: Create the Environment

Once you’ve taught yourself to speed read at a decent pace, and have some books you want to work through without Spreeder, you need an ideal reading environment. Speed reading at high paces is mentally taxing and after an hour you’ll likely find yourself tired. In addition, since it requires perfect attention and focus, any distraction (including music) can mess you up. You need as little sensory stimulation in your environment as possible.

Here are some additional tips to creating the perfect speed reading environment:

  • Set aside at least an hour to read, and only to read. Don’t let other distractions interrupt.
  • Get noise canceling headphones or go to a quiet place. Playing white noise through headphones can help as well.
  • Make sure you have the screen at an optimal distance. Tablets are great for this because you can hold them right where you want them.
  • Have a way to take notes! When you burn through a book in an hour, you’ll naturally forget things. Taking notes along the way is very helpful

If you take the time to practice, and make yourself go slightly faster each time, you’ll quickly become a reading machine. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can learn new things, and absorb concepts that would have taken days or weeks before. At the same time, sit back and read in your normal fashion from time to time as well! Speed reading is mentally taxing, so if you want to read to relax you shouldn’t feel pressured to speed through it.

Featured photo credit: Books by Algiamil via SXC.hu

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Nat Eliason

Writer and Host of Nat Chat

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

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Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

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3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

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Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

5. Learn to Say “No”

I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

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Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

7. Be Intentional

The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

The Bottom Line

The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

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Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

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