You Need To Learn How To Read Effectively

J.R. Heimbigner

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Reading a lot of books is a funny thing these days. People either want to read more and don’t. Or they don’t want to read, but should. And then there are the few of us who read and read and read and wish we could read even more.

And while I naturally gain a lot from reading because I am a verbal learner, I find that more people could learn from reading every day.

When I talk with others about their reading habits it seems most people don’t know where to start in order to begin to read more.

What I have found is a simple formula to help us read more. And it comes down to three main areas:

Format, Location, and Reflection.

When we focus on reading in the right combination of elements from these three areas we can begin to read uncommon amounts of books. And when we do this in the right method, we can retain much more of this information and apply it to life.

№1 — Format

When I say format, there are three main ways you consume books. Reading a traditional paper copy. Reading via e-readers. And reading/listening with audiobooks. Each way has pros and cons, and lend themselves to establishing a better reading habit throughout our days.

Traditional Paper Books

Most of us actually love the look and feel to hold a book in our hands as we read. It is the way we were brought up and can give us the best overall reading experience.

It is easy to underline, highlight, and jot down notes in paper copies. And some of us love to see book after book on our shelves out home once we have read them.

However, traditional books take up space. You cannot carry around too many with you and after a while, you will fill up every shelf in your house. It is also harder to pull one out and read at any given time.

Most of us feel like we need to sit down and just read our paper book, not pull it out in the coffee line or elevator.

Traditional paper books are what we are used to, and I believe they hinder our ability to read more overall. That being said, I tend to buy a traditional paper book even if I have the next format because I like to hold the book in my hands.


With the invention of e-books, we can carry hundreds if not thousands of books at our fingertips on our e-readers or phones, or tablets.

The great thing about this is how easy it is to reference and access. If you are in a long line at your local coffee shop, you can pull out an e-book. And you can still highlight and keep notes too!

However, it is said that all of our screens are hurting our eyes. We fatigue more quickly with the type of light that comes off of them. And if you want an e-reader, chances are you have a smartphone and some of us have tablets too. So, it becomes one more device.

Yet, this is quickly taking over as my preferred method. I have a Kindle Fire and I love reading on it. Also, most books are not as expensive on the Kindle bookstore, so I tend to pick up more books this way.

I like to pick up and read wherever I am and I love that I can highlight and make notes and always have those available.


This is a disputed form of reading. And it has been since the beginning of audiobooks. You typically have to pay a subscription fee with an audiobook provider now as you cannot get as many books on CDs. And you can’t really take notes or highlight things that stick out to you.

Yet, you can listen to audiobooks anywhere. On your drive to work. In the airport. At your desk, if you can listen and do things at the same time (clearly, I cannot). And if you are an audio learner this can adapt reading to your preferred learning style.

I use Audible to read audiobooks on my way to work. Yes, it has a subscription fee.

But I like how it connects with my Amazon account and I can switch between my phone, Kindle, and even computer to listen. And more and more self-published authors are putting their books on Audible every day too.

Choosing Your Format

It is important to choose a format for how you are going to read books. And I think we can use a combination of the three for different parts of our day. After all, if you are in the car and it takes more than 30 minutes to get to work, Audible is a good option for reading.

And if you want to pick up and read while stuck at the doctor’s office or coffee shop or anywhere else, ebooks are a great option too. And of course, we all love to sit on a porch in the fall or by a fire in the winter and take in a book.

No matter what, you need to know what format works best for you and what works best for your location, and the ability to reflect on what you are reading.

№2 — Location

I have found that location is the next most important aspect of reading. It seems as our world gets busier and our lives get more complicated we can always make the excuse that we do not have time to read.

And while this may be true, we can find times to read in the different locations we end up throughout our day.

And while many of our locations vary, I have shared some options already in the previous section. I will focus on three main spots where we can find time to read throughout our day.


If I am going to read at home, typically it is in the morning before my children get up. And in the evening if my wife is out with friends or we don’t find anything exciting on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

For some of us, reading might come easiest when our children or down for a nap, and we can spend some time taking in a good story or learning a new skill. Either way, we can find times at home to read.

When you are at home, pick a place or two you can read. Make them your reading zones. Maybe it is a cozy chair in your living room. Or the couch in your den.

And sometimes, the best place is right in bed where you have blankets and pillows and you can be comfortable.

No matter what, pick a couple of places where you will read.


While we should be working at work, there are plenty of times when we can be reading throughout our day as well. After all, we all should be getting lunch and one of two breaks throughout the day.

And those are great times to sit and read.

In these instances, pick your reading spot as well. I suggest not at your desk. Mostly because it begins to make it hard to put the book down and go back to work if you are in the middle of a good part in your book.

Try choosing places like your car or break room. I have noticed some people who clearly work in our building sitting in the lobby area reading too. And I tend to read while taking a walk, maybe a foolish idea, but it helps relax my mind and move my body.

Nevertheless, pick a spot or two at work where you will read.

Out and About

Whether you are commuting by car, train, or walking there are always places we can read. If you commute in your car, again audiobooks might be a great choice for you. If you walk to work, maybe a quick stop off at a park or coffee shop to get 5 or 10 minutes of reading done.

This is far more variable than work and home. Yet, there can be some great locations that will help you get into reading a little bit more throughout your day.

As an experiment, try reading at a park, at a book store, and at a coffee shop. Or try going to a local diner. Set up a shop to read, pick a short amount of time, and see what works best for you.

This can also be an alternative place for you to read during the workday. Try reading in some random places this week and see what you enjoy best.

№3 — Reflection

This area to establish good reading habits focuses more on retaining what you are learning. When we are retaining what we learn or experiencing some sort of gain from what we learn it helps encourage us to read more. We can typically find things to apply to our lives when we are reflecting on what we read.

Also, reflection isn’t only about non-fiction books. We can learn a lot from fiction books as well. One of my favorite books, the Count of Monte Cristo is one of those books that has many lessons about how we as humans interact with each other and society. It’s a long book, but I learn something every time a read it.

There are three main methods I use to reflect and retain what I read:

Highlighting and Note Taking, Summarizing, and Active Reading.

Highlight and Note Taking

This is a basic way of reflecting on what you read. If something sounds good to you or it strikes you in a certain way. Highlight it! If there is a turn of phrase or something you want to remember, Highlight it! Highlighting helps you to be able to reference things you liked about a book.

Note-taking helps us understand why something is so good to us. Or if you learn something, just jot down a note about what you learned. You can do this in the book whether paper or ebook. Or you can do it in a journal or an app like Evernote.

The key is to make reference points to go back when you need to pick up a book and remember something you loved about it.


This is a new one for me, but I have found it very helpful as I learn to read more effectively. After you read a section of your book, say out loud or write down on a piece of paper that you read as a summary.

This summary helps you remember what you read and sometimes it even reminds you of something you learned.

In summary, just pick two to three sentences to summarize what you read. Unless of course, you have been reading for an hour. Then you can bullet point key events or lessons.

You can keep this summarization, or you can do away with them. However, they are to help you remember what you read, almost like making it stick in your mind a little easier.

Active Reading

This is more during your reading time. Before you start reading. Skim through the next 10–20 pages for any headings, subheadings, or bold/italics. Take note of these things.

Do they force you to ask any questions? Also, think about what you previously read. Do you have any questions about that?

As you read, be on the lookout for ways your questions might be answered. And be sure to see why something was put into the headers or bolded or italicized.

This will help you understand the conclusions you will find from the book and the conclusions the author wanted you to understand.

This helps you retain what you read by actively participating in what you read. This is also a new method to me, however, I have found it helpful as I am trying to pick up new skills and traits from books.

The Importance of Remembering What You Read

Whether you are reading fiction for fun or non-fiction to learn, it is important we remember what we read. This way we can apply it to life and of course, be able to jump back into where we left off.

It also helps us understand the knowledge and apply the wisdom found in the books we read. As we go about our daily lives we can see where these books can touch our lives and help us better interact with people and circumstances as they arise.

Takeaways about Reading

When we combine these different elements in the right order for ourselves, we can begin to read more effectively.

Not only will we read effectively, but we will also start to enjoy reading more because we are setting ourselves up for a good experience and retaining what we are reading.

And we can learn so much from reading. Whether we are purchasing books or borrowing from the library, there is so much information at our fingertips. And it really can impact our lives and our personal education.

Next time you think about sitting down to read. Consider your format, location, and reflection method. And try out a combination of these to see how you can enjoy and learn more from reading.

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My goal with my writing is to help people get everything done they want in their very busy lives. I believe we can we all can achieve our dreams and I know it starts with having the right mindset, systems, and taking action every single day. My writing shares how to do this through self-improvement, inspiration, and productivity.

Spokane, WA

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