Imagine you have just picked up a book from your “books I need to read” list. You prepare your favorite beverage and find the comfortable spot on your couch. Enthusiastically, you open the book and begin to read it, scanning the words, feeling the pages on your fingertips every time you turn to the next page. Half way into the third paragraph your brain remembers that recipe you were trying to share with your neighbor that morning. That triggers you into planning for tomorrow’s breakfast. A bagel with cream cheese or overnight oats? Wait, what did you just read? You forgot and now you have to start from the beginning, but shortly after it happens again. And then again. WHY?!?
This has happened to all of us, even the best, most attentive readers. Our minds lose focus and become distracted with other thoughts, our phones, other people, our pets, that loud bird who lives outside of your window. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve had to start a paragraph over because I forgot what was just read not even 30 seconds ago. It’s completely aggravating and adds significant amount of time to our reading. One could put blame on things like our cell phones, those evil little devices that latch to our bodies and refuse to let go until we have drained them. But is it really the cell phones fault? With so much opportunity for distraction, it’s hard to pin point what is the exact cause to the lack of focal point. Why are we so easily distracted and how can we end this torment?
Luckily there are ways to improve our focus and be able to comprehend the material in our hands. Through some trial and error mixed in with a bit of research, I managed to learn a few ways to work around the distractions and regain laser-focus when reading. I’m not saying my eye sight has improved, but you get the picture. Here are a few tips on how you can improve and enjoy your readings.
Force yourself to enunciate each syllable. This will help with comprehension and preventing you from skimming through sentences. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing this in a public area or on the ride to work, so try this in the comfort of your own home or somewhere you won’t be distracting others.
Reading with someone or in a group is a great way to keep yourself in check. Sharing those ‘AH-HA’ moments can help draw attention to details you’ve missed and vice versa. You can also write down notes from your reading to share with your group to get better perspectives on things you may have missed out on. Book clubs are another good alternative to keep yourself focused with your reading. Just make sure not to jot down any notes in your library book.
Yes, put the book down and relax. Absorb what you have just read, grab a snack, fold that stack of laundry you’ve been avoiding, or just rest your mind. Taking a break from reading helps you relax and clear your mind from potential distractions, clearing the way for the next part of your reading.
Reading little parts here and there is a valuable way to retain information. If you know you have some free time before your next meeting, read a few pages of your book. It may not seem like much, but the short intervals of reading will add up and before you know it, you’ll have completed your book.
There will be books that you pick up, that are strongly recommended to you or just ones that catch your attention, that you may not find interesting. It’s ok. It happens and you can put the book down. Finding books that interest you will help keep your eyes on the words and your fingers flipping through pages. Unless it’s a school assignment or textbook, you don’t have to read material that does not hold your interest.
Find a comfortable, quite place you can keep concentration on. Try not to pick somewhere like your bed or desk where you work. These places tend to be affiliated with specific activities in your life, like sleeping and work, and are areas where distractions are more likely to happen. Having your designated reading spot will be familiar to your mind, allowing for better focus. Keep leisure reading in your leisure spot and work reading at your desk.
You’re not cheating the system by listening to an audio version of your book. They’re great for those who are limited with time and always on the go. Whether you’re working out at the gym, heading to your next destination, or simply grabbing a quick bite, audio books can help you enjoy your next read aurally.