3 Surprising Tools That Will Help You Read More Efficiently

Fab Giovanetti


Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

Let’s start with a confession: I am a very, very, very quick reader.

In my first book, Make an Impact, I talked extensively about the time that I read 10 books in one day.

I was 10, on holiday, extremely bored, and with a full library at my disposal.

You might be wondering what kind of books they were.

They were 100-page paperbacks of Goosebumps (any Goosebumps fans out there?), nevertheless, it was 10 books. I just loved the idea of getting lost in a story, getting lost in the little details, transported in a new world that was not my own.

This was the time for me when learning lessons from a book wasn’t a necessity, and reading was escapism at its finest.

When I come to think about it, when I was younger I would mainly read fiction books. I majored in English and Russian literature and culture, so you could say reading fiction is in my blood.

One of the good things about a fiction book is that it is a story.

There might be lessons and breakthroughs, but entertainment and escapades them are as important as the lessons themselves.

Non-fiction books are not devised to be entertaining, nevertheless, my favourite non- fiction books are actually quite entertaining and full of personality.

Whether they are dotted with personality or not, I still feel like I’m reading in order to learn something.

Even in my book, despite trying to inject my personality and my fun sense of humour, people are coming back for the lessons and for the action steps they can take into the daily lives.

Optimise your reading as a learning experience

If you think about the fact that nowadays reading is very time-consuming because people are busier than ever, it’s not surprising that we have more and more ways to shortcut our reading experience into a very quick one.

The attention economy has reached an all-time high — and we all need hacks for squeezing the things we love into our limited bandwidths.

Unsurprisingly, we now have tools that allow us to get information faster, and become more efficient readers.

I came across a few tools that made me wonder: do we really need to time-hack our reading experience?

As an example, Read Shit Faster is a website designed to help you…well, I am pretty sure you can draw your own conclusions:

“The average reader can read about 200 WPM (words per minute) with about 60 percent comprehension, but that’s if you read left to right. If you read something one word at a time instead without moving your eyes, you can increase your WPM without losing your comprehension!” (taken from the Read Shit Faster website)

The website is optimised for pieces of writing you may find on websites over War and Peace.

Still, it was created with the idea that we can get more information faster, something that helps people retrieving information faster.

Are books too long to be enjoyed?

There is another thing to be said for non-fiction books.

When I asked in one of the Facebook groups I belong ‘how many words are a good number of words from non-fiction book’ their response was rather interesting.

Someone pointed out that most non-fiction books are filled with faff to make up the word count, using 40,000 words to say something that barely needs 20,000.

“What people want from non-fiction are the takeaways and lessons”

Someone added.

On that note, it does not come as surprise to see apps like Blinkist that allow you to digest non-fiction books but listening (or reading) a summary of the takeaway in 15 minutes or less.

I actually used Blinkist in the past for countless research on a variety of articles, and for that, it served a purpose.

However, if I had to say that it was just like reading a book and getting lost in its pages, I would definitely lie.

A similar conversation has to be had for audiobooks. The reason why they have become so popular has been the level of convenience as well as ease of retaining information.

I am a massive advocate — and lover — of audiobooks myself, and I believe it’s an invaluable tool for research. Still, I am a purist of the old school book shop experience. The smell of a new book is a hard one to beat.

How to take notes more efficiently

You have two options really. Analog or digital.

Analog toolkit: your phone, notepad, pen.

  • Pro: it helps you retain the information better
  • Cons: you will have to transcribe or screenshot your notes to catalogue them

Digital toolkit: your phone, your notes app

(In the past I used Evernote, right now I use the native iPhone notes app and I can categorise just as well!)

  • Pro: you can add links, more notes and catalog efficiently
  • Cons: does not conduce to less screen time

I listen to audiobooks during my lunch break, walking out in nature, I find digital works best for me. The concept is really simple. As I start listening to the book, I make sure I have my notes app open to jot any ideas I am particularly fond of.

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Choose your weapon, choose a block of time that works for you (minimum fifteen minutes) and make sure you have your notes handy for whenever you are listening to some inspiring content.

What are you trying to get from your reading?

When it comes to the reading shortcut debate, I believe we have to appreciate different people read for different reasons.

My reading practice is a mix of research through articles (for magazine articles), inspiration and audiobooks, entertainment and, well, simply becoming a better storyteller by picking up an actual book.

Reading is an act of self-care, and as such, I prioritise it in my schedule. If I am looking to treat myself, I’ll always pick up a book from the shelf over a 15-minute summary.

What about you, how do you consume information, how do you read content and exercise your reading muscle?

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