How to improve your Reading Skills

Speed reading and Deep reading techniques

Reading is one of those understated skills that we use all the time at the workplace but is upstaged by more high-profile skills such as ‘quantitative ability’, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘soft skills’. Yet it is one of the building blocks of almost every type of career.

Think about it. From reading emails, reports, memos, resumes, presentations, research & reference material, press releases, manuals, labels and financial reports… we spend more than half our time at work, reading.

Sure there are some careers that call for superior reading ability – such as the media, public relations, marketing and academic careers – but every job profile requires you to be able to read and understand basic text.

Therefore, reading comprehension is one of the pillars on which your career rests.

But there’s more to reading than simply understanding words on a page. Reading also implies the ability to connect dots, link thoughts, think critically and evaluate what you are reading. It also sometimes involves creative thinking.

So, for instance, to come up with a new and innovative financial product, a business analyst would need to read and analyse a heck of a lot of economic and financial data, numerical and non-numerical, to come up with an investment product or plan that would get customers to sign up for them.

Reading is also part of the overall communications package, which includes reading comprehension, writing ability and good speaking skills. And there is no underestimating the power of communication.

In fact, good communication is one of those soft skills that can help leapfrog your career, for it means you can connect with people easily, you are empathetic and can influence opinions and decisions.

Poor reading comprehension, on the other hand, can make you lag behind your co-workers because it takes you longer to understand and interpret what you are reading.

How To Improve Your Speed Reading Skills

Here are two basic techniques of speed reading that can make your experience with reading much more result-oriented.

Skimming

Just because someone wrote it doesn’t mean you have to read it. Skimming is a reading technique where you don’t read every word on the page. You simply let your eyes fall on relevant information, so that you get a gist of the content.

So, for instance, when you are looking at a newspaper and cannot read every article in it, you let your eyes rest only on the headlines so that you get a brief summary of the news, while mentally bookmarking articles you may want to read after you skim the paper. Similarly, when conducting research for a presentation, you have to look up loads of data. Skimming will help you wade through reams of information in a very short time.

Here’s how it’s done. First, read the first couple of paragraphs in detail so that you get a sense of what’s to follow. Then read only the first sentence of each paragraph, which will give you an idea of what the paragraph contains.

When you come across relevant information, pause and read in detail, before returning to skimming. When you come to the end of the page, chapter or document you are skimming, read the last few paragraphs in detail, for they usually sum up the topic.

Scanning

This is another speed-reading skill that will help you a great deal at work. It is different from skimming because here, you know what you are looking for, except you need to find it.

So, for instance, if you are reading a pharmaceutical report and want to determine whether it includes the name of a specific drug, you scan the report for that name.

It helps to mentally repeat the drug’s name, or key word, while scanning the document just as it does to run your finger across the page to focus your eyes on the material. Think of it as the physical version of ‘find-and-search’!

Deep Reading Skills

While important to master from a practical standpoint, skimming and scanning can get you only this far. The reading skill you really want to develop is ‘deep reading’.

Also going by the term ‘slow reading’, this is the ability to read a document, report or a book, cover-to-cover, critically think about it, reflect on what you have read and ponder over it.

Obviously, this habit requires patience, which is in short supply in this age of shrinking attention spans. Not surprisingly, deep reading is fast being replaced by net grazing and surface reading.

But if you’re guilty of these habits and determined to take an online course to make good, remember the professional and personal gains will far out outstrip the pain.

Back to the list of key skills.